GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - When elementary school children in the Galloway Township Public School District return to school in September, they will not be given any written homework assignments over the weekend.

The school board unanimously adopted a homework policy earlier this week saying that written homework assignments cannot be given over the weekend to students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Studying for tests, working on long-term projects and reading are permissible under the new guidelines.

In May, Superintendent Annette Giaquinto and two other district administrators proposed prohibiting written homework over the weekend across the district, including middle schools. They said the change would ensure students have enough time to spend with their families and on extracurricular activities.

However, during the first public discussion of the policy in June, Giaquinto said the district was instead considering guidelines that would allow written homework to be given over weekends on a limited basis for seventh- and eighth-grade students.

The changes were made due to input from board members, officials said.

"The policy formalizes the best practices already existing in the school district with minor revisions to align with the research," Giaquinto wrote in an email. "Effective implementation of the policy will help ensure that all stakeholders better understand solid homework practices, that parents, guardians and students know what to expect, and that students' experiences are consistent across the school district."

Board members have said the use of the phrase "homework ban" in media headlines sparked the concern. They say their intention was never to ban homework, only to ensure that students have time to spend with their families and other activities away from the classroom.

Word that the district might prohibit written assignments on the weekends sparked an onslaught of regional media attention. Parents in the district, however, remained largely silent on the issue.

Just one parent spoke during the public comment section of the meeting when the policy was adopted earlier this week, and no members of the public spoke during the June meeting when the policy was discussed.

The policy allows tests and quizzes to be given in all grades on Mondays, provided that the Monday does not follow a holiday break. No more than 10 minutes of homework, multiplied by the child's grade level, can be assigned per weeknight, according to the new guidelines. For a fifth-grade student, that makes 50 minutes of homework the maximum.

District officials have said that research shows there's little correlation between homework and overall achievement in elementary school. They also have said the policy would only reinforce how most of the district's teachers already are handling homework. A recent district survey showed that hardly any teachers in the district give weekend assignments.

Galloway may be the first district in South Jersey to institute a written policy prohibiting written weekend assignments. However, a number of other area school districts - including Brigantine and Ventnor - have said written weekend homework assignments are not the norm.

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