Finding the right FIT

After more than two months of school, FIT set to begin

Now+senior+Charlie+Partheymuller+works+on+an+assignment+on+the+first+day+of+FIT+last+school+year.+Last+year%2C+the+tutoring+time+had+a+delayed+start+due+to+COVID+case+numbers.+This+school+year%2C+administration+once+again+encountered+a+delay%2C+but+this+time+it+was+due+to+a+lack+of+funding+and+the+shutdown+of+the+original+FIT+management+Portal.+

Meredith Grotevant

Now senior Charlie Partheymuller works on an assignment on the first day of FIT last school year. Last year, the tutoring time had a delayed start due to COVID case numbers. This school year, administration once again encountered a delay, but this time it was due to a lack of funding and the shutdown of the original FIT management Portal.

Chloe Lewcock, staff reporter

After months of waiting and multiple hurdles, FIT will begin on Thursday.

After learning that the old FIT Portal is no longer usable, the Mac leadership team began working to find new ways to get FIT reinstated at McCallum despite the delays and funding issues.

In the fall of 2019, a new system that we now know as FIT, or “Flexible Instruction Time,” was introduced to McCallum. The goal of this program was to give students a chance to meet with teachers and work on projects or get a chance to make up assignments they had missed. Teachers also used this time as an opportunity to work with students, and they even had the ability to request through the FIT Portal that certain students attend.

Our teachers are great and will be ready once we have the software to support the program.”

— Assistant Principal Andy Baxa

Over the past few years, the school has worked with a program called the FIT Portal as a management system used throughout AISD. The system allowed teachers to create FIT sessions and gave students the opportunity to sign up for them. However, this program also came with a lot of downsides.

“The Fit Portal was great in many ways, but it was also not all the way great,” Principal Nicole Griffith said. “For instance, it wasn’t easy for teachers to take attendance in FIT. The other part about it was that teachers had to create a FIT every single time, there was no default on this [system].”

These flaws were the main issue that inspired the upcoming changes toward FIT, combined with the fact that the previous FIT Portal was no longer available for use through any AISD school. A new solution had to be found. This school year the McCallum Leadership Team including Griffith, counselors, department heads and other administrators came together to create this solution, find a new management system and implement it in the school.

“A few weeks before school started, we found out that the whole AISD Cloud, which is where a lot of things were housed, was sunsetted,” Griffith said. “We worked with a couple of other schools and tried to figure this out. And we did find a program called Enriching Students.”

This new program gives teachers an easier way to take attendance, as well as hold students accountable for showing up to FIT. Like in prior years, students get the choice to choose where they want to go and what teachers they visit, but this time they can do it from an app located on their phones.

“It’s the same idea, you have a time period in your day to be able to give students some ownership over what they need to do and some flexibility on how they want to approach that part of their day,” Griffith said.

There are also some new scheduling additions being put in place. Like last year, FIT will occur every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and students will plan their week of FIT sessions in Monday advisory.

I think it’s important that students have ownership in their own academics. We want to get kids to the point where they’re taking responsibility for the classes that they need extra help in.”

— Principal Nicole Griffith

“On Mondays, we will do academic advisement,” Griffith said. “You do a little analysis of your own grades, and the teachers can look at grades at that time, and by the end of that period, we will have looked at our grades and what we’re doing and we will have signed up for three fit sessions that week. Every kid will need to do that. If a student doesn’t do that, their advisory teacher will do it for them.”

This new system and management style will create more opportunities for students by giving them a clear idea of what the week will look like starting first thing on Monday. They will know if teachers need to see them and what classes they need to visit throughout the week.

“It will benefit the kids to go in and do it themselves,” Griffith said. “I think it’s important that students have ownership in their own academics. We want to get kids to the point where they’re taking responsibility for the classes that they need extra help in.”

Before school started in August, Griffith and the rest of the leadership team started negotiations with the new company. Mac lacked some of the funding essential to pushing forward, however, leaving the whole situation in limbo for the first nine weeks of school.

“We were ready to go, I just needed to find the funding,” Griffith said. “Then we were told we could use what is called ESSER funds. ESSER funds are the funds that were given from the federal government during COVID, which we still have to help with tutoring.”

Since FIT couldn’t exist without funding or a management system, the wait continued longer than expected. But according to associate principal Andy Baxa, once the system is secured, all that’s left is training students and teachers adequately on the new program.

“We always planned to have advisory for the first 10 days of school and to start FIT in week three,” Baxa said. “Unfortunately, we were unable to keep our original timeline. The actual lesson planning for FIT is probably the easiest part of the process.”

“I think that FIT is good for people who can’t get here early enough for tutoring so they can also get help from the teachers. It is nice to have a mix of things to do so we don’t have to do the same things every day.”

— sophomore Lucy Cotrill

With FIT finally starting next week, students and teachers will have to adjust to the change. Sophomore Lucy Cotrill is glad that Mac is implementing FIT into students’ schedules now rather than at the beginning of the school year.

“I think that starting FIT at the beginning of the year wouldn’t be beneficial,”  Cotrill said. “It would be a lot to learn about the school and how it works for people new to the school.”

Despite FIT not being known by this year’s freshmen, Cotrill believes that the built-in studying time will improve the lives of all students.

“I think that FIT is good for people who can’t get here early enough for tutoring so they can also get help from the teachers,” Cotrill said. “It is nice to have a mix of things to do so we don’t have to do the same things every day.”