Learning Connections become a time for learning


Learning Connections have been a part of Thursday block day at Decatur High School for around a decade. On block days, classes are half an hour longer, with four classes on Wednesday and three on Thursday. To fill the extra class period on Thursday, the school implemented advisement for 30 minutes and Learning Connections for the remaining hour. This year, Learning Connections are changing under Interim Principal Wesley Hatfield’s administration.

In the past, Learning Connections were a time for recreation and relaxation, like walking club, lawn games, and watching “The Office.” This year, they will be a time for finishing classwork, getting one-on-one teacher help, and working on general projects. 

Assistant Principal Taylor Cross was one of those who advocated for this change. Cross said the change is being implemented for two reasons.

“We have this need to support the academic needs of our students, and we have this time that has unfortunately become problematic,” Cross explained.

According to Cross, Learning Connections had become a time with more absences and kids wandering the halls.

Some students were placed into Learning Connections this year based on academic need, Cross said. For example, a student needing more help in geometry would be placed with a math teacher.

Cross thinks the new plan will be more beneficial to students than the old plan.

“[With Learning Connections,] you get an hour to do whatever you want during the week, so would you rather watch a couple of episodes of ‘The Office’ and not have to worry about anything, or [would you rather] work on school work?” Cross said.

However, sophomore Hoang-Yen Nguyen disagrees.

“It’s a negative change because school’s really busy… you want breaks because then you’re just going to burn out,” Nguyen said.

DHS Librarian Susan Riley shares some of Nguyen’s ideas.

“Sometimes it feels like the whole Decatur environment has changed. I knew some kids who really didn’t have friends until they, I don’t know, played ping pong with a group of guys… I mean, what’s the harm in ping pong?” Riley said.

In response to general displeasure, Cross said, “Be glad you got to be a part of that, because in today’s educational landscape, we have to provide academic support for our students. Using an hour the way we had been using it for so long, there is really no district anywhere that would allow that to happen.”

On Oct. 8, Hatfield forwarded an email from Cross to students with information about the change.

This change will not affect students who take part in separate academic activities during this time.

If you have TOK or Personal & Professional Skills, then you will continue to do that during the Learning Connection time,” Cross said.

According to Cross’ email, there will be a video in advisement on Oct. 10 about the changes to Learning Connections. After that, students will head to their new Learning Connection classes.