So much to do, so little time.

How can schools fulfill urgent student needs and keep diverse students needs within the school day and with a limited budget?

Columbia Middle School in Sunnyvale added a 45-minute midmorning period for the entire school. Those students needing remediation are assigned an English or math class. The 60 percent of the student body who are on track get a chance to take unusual electives such as astronomy, manga, the history of hip-hop and band.

Known as FLEX, the program's success has won it one of three Glenn W. Hoffman Exemplary Program Awards granted this year by the Santa Clara County School Boards Association.

After the program's first year in 2012-13, students in the support classes showed significant growth, said Principal Mary Beth Allman.

FLEX offers multiple benefits. Because every teacher teaches a class -- normally some would have prep time during any given period of the day -- class sizes for remedial classes can be just 15 or 16 students. The chance to do well enough to get out of catch-up math and instead take Xbox Kinect is a good motivator for some.

"The students are very engaged," Allman said. "And the teachers are really passionate." One science teacher, a former aviation mechanic, is teaching aviation.

Students rank their choices 1 to 10, and so far everyone has been granted one of their top three choices, Allman said. "It's exciting."

Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.