FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- It is back to school time.

On Monday, hundreds of children will return to the hallways of Fort Jackson schools and the Department of Defense Education Activity personnel have been working hard to ensure students get the most out of educational opportunities this year.

One noticeable change will be the school day schedule. Fort Jackson elementary schools will let out one hour early on Thursdays to allow for teacher professional development.

“We have been instituting many changes in the curriculum recently and we want to make sure teachers are properly trained and confident in their material so they can present their best to our students,” said DoDEA South Carolina Superintendent, Dr. Samantha Ingram.

“The early release is just one of the ways that we are moving toward a better learning environment for everyone.”

Ingram went on to say that students will benefit greatly from the new schedule, too.

“We want to use student data on a regular basis and use the early release time to look at the achievements of our students to see how we can serve them better,” Ingram said. “If a student is struggling, then we can look at the data on Thursday and know to regroup and provide additional time and support for that child that next week. As opposed to going the entire year, waiting for test scores to come back and then we’ve lost a year of instruction.”

The planning of the new school week schedule allows teachers to receive training and students to receive academic monitoring without losing any instructional time.

“We have made it so that there are additional 15 minutes on the other days of the week so that on Thursdays, the hour of instruction is not lost,” Ingram said.

Additional changes this year also include new Social Studies and Math curriculums along with reading benchmarks that will be used to identify reading levels and progress over time.

“The new learning will be more hands on and we want to make sure that teachers and parents are prepared to see it this year,” Ingram said. “Instead of your student coming home with a worksheet for homework, there may be a game or manipulative coming home in the Ziploc bag for the child to practice with.”

Fort Jackson school principals encourage parents to get involved with their students’ education this year, from helping with homework to volunteering at the school.

“Please be involved. More parent involvement leads to much higher student achievement,” said Sherry Schneider, principal of C.C. Pinckney Elementary School. “We would love to see you in the classrooms, helping students play games or serving on a committee. I would rather have a parent come help out just a little bit than not to help at all.”

Open Houses will be held today for Fort Jackson schools. This will be an opportunity for parents to find out specifics on their child’s school year and see some of the hands on learning techniques that will be implemented this year. Pierce Terrace Elementary School will have an open house from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and C.C. Pinckney Elementary School will have one from 5 to 6:30 p.m.