GTL 5.20 is creating a buzz at Waxahachie High School.

The students are excited.

The teachers are excited.

It’s on posters throughout the hallways.

It’s on T-shirts worn by the staff and students.

It’s on pens and pencils that are sold at the school store.

It’s on backpacks given away during lunch.

There’s even student produced videos promoting GTL 5.20 that are broadcast each week during advisory class.

What’s GTL 5.20 and why is it creating such a buzz at the high school?

It begins with WISD’s flex program that allows students to be released from school two weeks early if they meet the three criteria for early release:

• Pass all TAKS tests

• Attend at least 90 percent of all classes

• Meet the requirements to advance to the next grade level.

In order to promote the program and build excitement with the students, the student council was asked to come up with a theme.

“Who else are you going to ask what resonates with the kids?” said Amy Blanton, WHS vice principal. “They immediately came up with a catch phase borrowed from the popular television show ‘Jersey Shore.’ ”

On the show, the catch phrase GTL is often used by the characters as an acronym to “explain their situation” — Gym, Tan, Laundry.

“Everyone uses the GTL phrase. What we’ve done is turn it around to make it stand for Get To Leave on May 20,” Blanton explained, saying that the phrase serves as a constant reminder to students that if they meet the three requirements they will be released from school on May 20 instead of June 3, the scheduled last day for class before the summer break.

“It’s a pretty big deal for high school students to be able to leave school two weeks early,” Blanton said. “A lot of the students are looking at this as an opportunity to get a head start on finding a summer job before everyone else gets out of school. It’s really catching on.”

While meeting the three criteria for WISD’s flex plan seems like an automatic no-brainer, Blanton said that hasn’t always been the case, especially for sophomore students taking the TAKS test.

“Motivating our sophomores to do well on TAKS has always been a challenge,” she said, noting that students know they will have to take the TAKS again before graduation.

Unfortunately, those scores end up bringing down how the entire campus — and district — are viewed on the state mandated testing.

Not that WHS hasn’t been proactive in providing resources to students taking the tests.

One-on-one tutoring sessions are available in the library every Monday and Thursday for students needing help in specific areas, while students needing extra help are also put in TAKS class tutoring during the advisory period.

“Our teachers also conduct benchmark testing to help identify students who need extra help,” Blanton said, adding that in the past, a lot of it comes down to motivation.

Enter GTL 5.20.

“From the reaction of the students, it has been a big motivator,” she said. “The students see this as a reward and are really working hard toward being able to ‘Get To Leave on May 20.’ ”

While GTL 5.20 is well known within the walls of the high school campus, Blanton said she wants to get the word out to the parents and community, urging their support in helping the students meet their goals.

“It is a big deal,” she explained. “We want all of our students to succeed and we want all of our students to do well on the TAKS test because it is important. GTL 5.20 is giving us a tool to help provide the motivation that some of our students need.”

Of the 1,300 students in grades 9-12 at WHS, Blanton said her goal is for at least 1,000 to meet the flex plan requirements for early dismissal.

Those who do not meet the three requirements will remain in school until June 3.

Blanton said the school has set up special classes to work with the students in areas where they need additional help.

“There’s not going to be any classes where they are watching film strips. They are going to be working on lesson plans,” she added. “This is our first year doing something like this. We’re optimistic that it will have a significant positive impact and we can build on it, especially if it helps our kids achieve success.”

Contact Neal at neal.white@wninews.com or 469-517-1457.