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Clayton High staff strengthen skills on Flex Day

Clayton High School staff participated in the school’s first Flexible Learning Day by fine tuning their craft through professional development on Sept. 28.

The Flex Day, which is one of six days built into the school’s calendar, allowed teachers to plan activities and learning assignments that were facilitated by students off campus at a location of their choosing.

All CHS staff reported to the school and used the day for professional development exercises. The structure of the day included “office hours” for teachers, where they will be virtually available to students.

“Today Clayton High School is engaged in our first flex learning day, and it’s an opportunity where our staff was able to come together and focus on their professional development and growth,” said Clayton High School Principal Bennett Jones. “Our students are able to work at home, in groups, or collaboratively in the community. It’s a great day of learning outside the traditional scope of classroom education.”

Flex Days tie into the district's JOCO 2020 initiative, which aims to transform learning for students, by creating impactful learning experiences for all students in all courses.

“Today we have teachers who are committed to professional growth and students who are engaged with learning activities,” said Johnston County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow. “This is a tremendous example of JOCO 2020, and it’s a big step for JCPS as we move forward with our one initiative.”

The school’s plan is to create a flexible, comprehensive environment that continues to build digital learning platforms so that learners can utilize digital resources to reinforce and enhance classroom instruction.

“As I was going through the local Starbucks I saw five or six students from Clayton High School who were all gathered around at a table and had their devices and notebooks out. When I inquired about what was going on they told me they were working on their Flex Day assignments,” said Renfrow. “We don’t always have to be in front of an adult or in the confines of the four walls in a classroom to learn. Learning takes place anywhere, at all hours of the day.”

Staff used the Flex Day to hone their skills as professionals and participate in classes ranging from leadership training to conflict resolution.

“This program allows the teachers to look at what they’re doing and find a better way to approach children of all walks of life,” said Clayton High student teacher and UNC Greensboro student Michael Mattocks. “Instead of just of honing in on the same curriculum, the same patterns they have been doing, we are now looking to press forward and ask the kids to do the same thing with us.”

The school chose three days per semester, and they are tentatively scheduled for Sept. 28, Oct. 31, Nov. 20, Jan. 28, Feb. 27, and March 18. These dates are near a workday, holiday, or early release day which allows for the continuation of professional development concepts on the surrounding dates as well.

Clayton High is the first school in the district to implement the concept of flexible learning days. It will give students the chance to try something new, and it could potentially impact the ways teaching and learning occurs in the district.

“We want to get things in place so that we’re not doing the same old thing because the world is changing,” said Johnston County Board of Education member Dr. Peggy Smith. “We want our students ready for the world that awaits them. We want them to be adaptable, creative, innovative, and flexible.”

The idea for the Flex Days came about as part of Clayton High’s initiative to create a culture of flexibility, personalization, and established relationships among students, staff, parents, and the community.

“You have a lot of collaboration and teamwork going on amongst our students and staff today,” said Renfrow. “They’re authentically engaged working on the work. They’re just not in the class working on it. It’s a Flex Day.”

During the 2017-2018 school year, Clayton High implemented one Flex Day to test the initiative. Following the day, a survey was taken of all stakeholders. The survey data overwhelmingly reported (93 percent) that all stakeholder groups like the idea and format of the Flex Day and welcomed it as an option in the future. After reviewing this data the school decided to implement six days in the 2018-2019 school year.

During the Flex Days, students who do not have internet access at home will be provided alternate assignments that can be completed without the use of technology and returned to school on the following day.

“The focus of JOCO 2020 is on personalized learning and personalized education for students, and this is just another example of how we are able to provide personalized learning opportunities for students,” said Jones. “Meanwhile, our staff is engaged in relevant professional development opportunities. Where the goal is that we are going to improve in our classroom instruction and delivery of content across the curriculum.”