FAQS about Fit for Learning Initiative formerly (Modified Open Campus)

Raise Your Hand hopes to provide and facilitate information to parents and others about the Modified Open Campus option available to all CPS schools.  The current process requires individual site-votes at each school and the solutions on implementing a MOC will vary from school-to-school.  There is not a one-size-fits-all solution.  This means each school needs to work with the stakeholders including, teachers, the principal, LSC, parents and students to determine the best way for your individual school to move to a Modified Open Campus.  Below is information, examples of what other schools do and ideas for ensuring you involve the appropriate people in the transition. 

What is Modified Open Campus?

Modified Open Campus (MOC) is a schedule option available to CPS schools that results in a 6 hour 45 minute school day.  The school day has two recess breaks of 10 minutes each, one in the morning and another in the afternoon and a 40-45 minute lunch period where students can eat as well as enjoy free time.  MOC does NOT allow students to leave school grounds, but it does allow them to go outside on school grounds with supervision.  Currently, most CPS schools are on a Closed Campus schedule that is 5 hours 45 minutes long with lunch of 20 minutes or less and no recess.  with Closed Campus, the teacher duty-free lunch taken the last period of the school day after students have left the building. 

How do I know if my school is a Modified Open Campus?

It seems very few schools are currently using the MOC.  If your school day is 5 hours 45 minutes, you are most likely on Closed Campus.  To be sure, you can ask your Principal or LSC. 

My kid gets recess now, does that mean we are on Modified Open Campus?

Not necessarily.  Some schools have squeezed in recess minutes in their unique schedule.  Others have voted to add a minimal amount of time to accommodate recess.  Or, there may be instances where recess is cutting into instructional time.  This should not be happening, but it may be in some schools. 

How can my school move to a Modified Open Campus? 

We are currently asking CPS to provide information about how schools can move from Closed to Modified Open Campus.  Since this is available, there is a procedure.  Until we get this, what we do know is that there needs to be a vote at the school level. 

Is there a cost to move to a Modified Open Campus? 

Cost implications will vary from school to school.  When the change was made to closed campus in the 1970’s it was not driven by cost and there wasn’t a huge savings all of a sudden.  Moving back to MOC will be cost neutral in many cases, but NOT all. 

The cost depends on the scheduling.  The students need supervision during recess and lunch and that is a “duty” for an adult.  Sometimes this duty will be part of the work day, other times it will require some compensation.  You need to map out your current school schedule and determine who will supervise, then you can assess if there is a cost involved. 

It seems the key factors to determine cost are the size of the school staff (both union and non-union) as well as how many specials teachers a school has on staff.  A large school has many teachers and it may be easier to work out a lunch supervision rotation schedule that still allows the teachers their 45 minute duty-free lunch each day as well as the 4 required planning periods per week.  If you school offers many specials such as music, art, drama, language, gym, etc. then it is likely the homeroom teachers receive more than the required 4 planning periods per week.  In this case, there is capacity in the school staff schedule to create a lunch supervision rotation.  See examples and ideas of what other schools do below for examples.

How do other schools schedule Modified Open Campus?

We are gathering more details and mapping out what specific schools do and will post here shortly.  Until then, below is overall information about how MOC can be successfully implemented.  There is not a one-size-fits-all solution, scheduling will vary from school to school. 

Option 1: School has the Principal, Assistant Principal, Gym, Security, and other non-union staff supervise the recess times and supplement supervision with a rotation of teachers while still providing the teachers with their required daily lunch and weekly planning periods. 

Option 2: School with a lot of specials is able to work out a schedule that has teachers use one of the extra planning periods for lunch duty.  Some teachers in schools with a lot of specials receive 10-12 planning periods per week (the required is 4).  In these cases, even if the school is small, there is a way to work the schedule to move to MOC. 

Option 3: School can enlist parents to work in addition to the school staff to provide additional supervision.  School can enlist support from community groups and faith based organizations to assist in supervision along with school staff. 

Option 4: School can bring back the “play leader” that CPS parents who now have children remember.  Children are provided a leadership and civic duty opportunity to assist in supervising recess.  This can be older kids engaging younger students in organized games, taking an active role in ensuring fair play and curtailing bullying.  Engage students to be part of the solution while providing important leadership opportunities. 

Option 5: School without a large lunch room can create several rounds of lunches and rotate coverage accordingly.  One school has 4 lunch rounds and still successfully implements MOC. 

What are the challenges and potential solutions for a Modified Open Campus? 

There will certainly be challenges to overcome.  However, RYH maintains that no matter the challenges, there is nothing that we as adults can’t figure out together, and every child, no matter where or how, deserves the right to some amount of unstructured time each day. 

We need to help each other and share best practices and ideas.  Please post your solutions on our website and we can continue to enhance this section. 

Safety and security challenges

In some schools, there will challenges with safety and security.  Solutions will vary school to school.  One suggestion is to engage local community groups and faith based organizations.  Leverage the culture of calm initiative for recess time. 

Small lunchroom

Implement rounds of lunches and shift schedule accordingly.  Many of the challenges with MOC is scheduling.  Luckily, school administrators are usually very good with shifting schedules, but it will be a challenge. 

Chaos on the Playground

Yes, this will happen.  Kids will be kids and they need this unstructured time to burn off energy and brain development.  However, schools have managed recess for centuries and it is possible. 

  • Enlist students to help.  Create a “play leader” role.  Have school student council establish fair playground rules and help enforce them. 
  • Encourage athletics and other energy intensive games.  Hopscotch, 4-square, wall-ball, kick-ball, soccer, etc.  Have the students responsible for the care and maintenance of any equipment. 

Students hard to calm down

During lunch, some schools have success with children having the free time on the playground first and the eating lunch the last 20 minutes.  This allows students to level-set prior to returning to the classroom.  Also, teachers are very good at managing student energies and have many successful strategies. 

After School Programs

A longer day will impact after school programs.  Some schools shift their programs during the lunch period and have a “brown bag” club which used to take place after school.  Another option is to shift after school back.  Again, it will vary school to school. 

Bad Weather

A school did a study and found that during the 4 months from January-March, there was about 8 days of inclement weather, about 2 per month.  During indoor time, the cafeteria, auditorium and hallways can be utilized.  Have a school sing-along in the auditorium, power walks through the hallways, impromptu trivia session.  These days will be a greater challenge to manage and a series of options should be planned and ready to use on bad weather days. 

Where do I start?

Since this is a school by school decision, you need to engage your school community and key stakeholders of teachers, principal, parents and students.  You may want to create a “working group” to assess the possibility in your own school, uncover the issues and come up with potential solutions. 

Your working group may consist of Principal, 2-3 teachers, 2-3 parents and/or LSC members, 2-3 students and your local alderman.  Alderman should be used as a resource to resolve issues in their community and may offer some useful insight into local organizations and businesses that can help.  The goal of the working group is to assess if and how MOC can work in your school.  Ultimately, there is the vote that needs to take place and that process needs to be followed if you choose to move to MOC. 

RYH is working to offer seminars on how to explore the option of MOC at your school.  We are working on the details and will post them when dates are determined.