In an effort to better support student well-being, freshmen at ETHS will be enrolled in an Advisory Guided Study Hall, beginning in the fall of 2013, according to a proposal presented at the District 202 School Board meeting on Oct. 9.

“This proposal clearly relates to the goals for the District,” said Superintendent

Dr. Eric Witherspoon. “This kind of approach can be a vital part of our efforts to provide individualization. We have tried to work within the resources of the District and to design a model that can be grown from … freshmen to the rest of the students.”

Inspired by a School Improvement Team (SIT) recommendation and Board goals focusing on increasing personalization for students at ETHS, an Advisory Program Committee met weekly during the 2011-12 school year to consider the creation of a staff/student mentoring model. The Advisory Guided Study Hall proposal is the result of these meetings and study, which included research on mentoring and advisory models and surveys of students and faculty.

According to the proposal, each Advisory Guided Study Hall will be capped at 30 students and will meet three times a week opposite biology, which most freshmen have in their schedules. For students not taking biology, the advisory will meet five times a week. On Mondays, all 30 students will meet in the Advisory Guided Study Hall. The other two days the advisories will have only 15 of the students while the other half will be in biology lab.

“The purpose is for students to have a caring adult who knows them well … a person they can seek out during their four years at ETHS. Teachers and counselors will work in concert to address individual student needs, and counselors will have more time to focus on in-depth counseling and guidance as well as pursuing community services that support students and their families,” the proposal said.

Administrators acknowledged that some students will not have an advisory study hall because of scheduling conflicts, but said that they amount to fewer than 10 percent of the freshmen. According to the proposal, “These students will be identified and supported through individual freshman meetings with their counselors, student ambassadors and other programming options that we will specify as we prepare for next school year. … We are trying to be as creative as we possibly can, given that we have limited staff and financial constraints.”

The District says it hopes that 26 teachers will volunteer or be easily recruited for this duty, which will also involve working closely with counselors and social workers.

Board members were generally enthusiastic about the proposal, and several expressed the strong desire to have it expanded beyond the freshman year.

“I would like to see us make a commitment to next year’s freshmen that they will have this significant adult relationship all of the four years they are at ETHS,” said Board member Jonathan Baum. “Sometimes you have a student who sails through freshman year and then has problems later.”

Dr. Witherspoon agreed that would be desirable but indicated that the cost of such an approach was a concern. Dr. Paula Insley Miller, associate principal for student services, said one of the goals of the advisory is for “students to become self-advocates” and that the kind of approach that works for freshmen might “need to be tweaked” before replication for older students.

“What I like about this model is that it starts at the freshman year when students are most likely to be receptive to the guidance that the model is likely to provide,” said Board member Rachel Hayman. She said she strongly supported the volunteer aspect of the teacher involvement. “People should really want to do this,” she said. “Maybe we should even have an application process.”