At Michigan High School The Day Starts At 3 p.m. And Ends At 8 p.m. As most students at the school are leaving, a second wave trickles in. They're part of a public school experiment: evening classes. The flex students are on the same track as their daytime peers.
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At Michigan High School The Day Starts At 3 p.m. And Ends At 8 p.m.

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At Michigan High School The Day Starts At 3 p.m. And Ends At 8 p.m.

At Michigan High School The Day Starts At 3 p.m. And Ends At 8 p.m.

At Michigan High School The Day Starts At 3 p.m. And Ends At 8 p.m.

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  • Transcript

As most students at the school are leaving, a second wave trickles in. They're part of a public school experiment: evening classes. The flex students are on the same track as their daytime peers.

NOEL KING, HOST:

At about 3 o'clock every weekday, the doors of American high schools open and kids pour out, ending their day. At one Michigan high school, that is when a second group starts to trickle in. Students there are trying something different in K-12 education. They're trying evening classes. From member station WKAR in East Lansing, Kevin Lavery has the story.

KEVIN LAVERY, BYLINE: The final moments of Friday afternoon are slipping away at Eastern High School in Lansing as announcements echo through the halls.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: That is it for your announcements. Everyone enjoy your Monday - Martin Luther King Day, and have a nice weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANNOUNCEMENT CHIME)

LAVERY: As students streamed through the doors, teacher Dee Halstead is rolling her supply cart to the library. Her workday is just ramping up.

(SOUNDBITE OF CART ROLLING)

DEE HALSTEAD: This is my classroom on wheels. It's my laptop and all of the papers that I need to give the students and my flash drive so I can print off his exam.

LAVERY: Halstead coordinates an experimental program here called Eastern Flex Academy. A handful of students attend school now from 3 to 8 p.m. They start off with English and math classes, break for dinner and then finish their remaining courses online.

The motivation for this was two-pronged. The district wanted to make better use of its building during off hours. The school board wanted to find out how a mobile, digital 21st-century workflow could supplant an agrarian-based 19th-century school day. Eastern Flex Academy was designed to accommodate part-time job schedules, internships and even family responsibilities.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYPING)

LAVERY: Senior Taylor Burford (ph) taps away at her English term paper, a review of a historical fiction on the life of Malcolm X, who lived in Lansing in his youth. She's dual enrolled in college, works at a child care center and takes dance classes. Burford says going to school late in the day has really helped her.

TAYLOR BURFORD: Here, I don't really have to worry about socializing or being performative, I guess. Like, I can just stay chill, do my work. It's easier.

LAVERY: High school evening classes are not completely unheard of, but they're not usually built around lifestyle demands.

MONIKA KINCHELOE: I think what you're seeing in Lansing is a response to the needs of young people.

LAVERY: Monika Kincheloe is a senior director with America's Promise Alliance, a D.C.-based coalition of nonprofits. She says while some schools provide evening classes to help students recover lost credit hours or help working adults earn their GED, the Lansing model is different. Here, flex students are on a parallel course with their daytime peers.

KINCHELOE: That gives me great comfort in knowing that they aren't getting lost - because they're part of the school. And so when the school reports a graduation rate or a testing outcome, it's going to include those young people in the evening classes. And that's a good thing.

LAVERY: But there is a more basic and popular reason for flex classes - catching up on your rest. Jerome Tiel (ph) is a junior at Lansing Eastern.

JEROME TIEL: I'm able to sleep in as long as I need to, so I always get, like, a good night's rest. I'm able to do just more things with my day. Seriously, I feel like this is one of the best changes in my life.

LAVERY: Jerome's father, James Brains (ph), likes what he's seeing so far.

JAMES BRAINS: Before, he was failing a class here and there, and his top grades would be in the C or B range. And now he's getting A's. Also, he was having some behavioral issues as well, and those have decreased quite a bit.

LAVERY: The program is already planning to grow. This semester, the Lansing School District will offer it to juniors and seniors in the city's two other high schools and even to neighboring schools in the suburbs.

For NPR News, I'm Kevin Lavery in East Lansing.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEFAN GROSSMAN AND JOHN RENBOURN'S "BERMUDA TRIANGLE EXIT")

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