Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Longer school day?

Updated below

I’m hearing rumors that the district is considering making its school day longer—the rumor is that junior high and high school would start twenty-five minutes earlier (at 7:45) and end ten minutes later (at 3:30). Caution: I have no idea whether there’s any truth to the rumors. When I asked the superintendent today if there were any proposals to lengthen the school day, he replied:
The District and the ICEA have been working through the collective bargaining process to create the necessary flexibility to move from a “days” calendar to an “hours” calendar. These discussions are continuing as there are several logistical hurdles to overcome. At the Board meeting last night we calendared a public hearing for May 12 so that we can discuss such a change, provided that we can overcome the logistical hurdles.
So it sounds like a change in the length of the day is at least a possibility.

As the parent of a teenager who already has a very full day because of school, I’d be very reluctant to make the school day any longer, and especially to start it any earlier. Teenagers aren’t known for being morning people. I also think there are diminishing educational returns from being cooped up in a school building all day, and that they start diminishing well before you get to 7.75 hours. I also wonder about the benefit of a longer school day when some kids at the junior high level are already being given multiple study halls because there aren’t enough classes to put them in.

I understand, though, that some parents might prefer a longer school day just for the child care coverage. That seems like a legitimate concern, though it may not be as much of an issue in the higher grades. Moreover, from the superintendent’s email, it sounds like a longer day would just result in a shorter school year, which would cause its own child care coverage issues. In general, if more child care coverage can be provided to people who want it without imposing it on people who don’t, I’d be in favor of that approach (which sounds less expensive, too). For what it’s worth, the superintendent has acknowledged that lengthening the school day has gotten “a universally negative reaction from parents” in the past.

In any event, if there’s going to be any change to the school day, we should hear the details well in advance of any scheduled public hearing on it.

And if the school day does become longer, maybe it’s time for the district to develop a homework policy? Here’s an example of one (from a district with a less-than-6.5-hour day and a 55-minute lunch period!).

UPDATE 4/30/15: Am now hearing some more details, though all still unconfirmed. One person tells me that the plan is to lengthen the elementary school day by having it go from 8:30 - 3:30, but to shift the high school and junior high day earlier without lengthening them (so school would go from 7:45 to 2:55). It remains unclear to me why anyone would want the older kids’ day to start earlier and end earlier than the younger kids’ day.

I’ve been unable to get any satisfactory explanation of how the state’s shift from counting days to counting hours requires any adjustment at all in our current bell schedules (as opposed to simply adjusting the number of days kids are in school). So far, it sounds more like this is just an opportunity for the administration to push its longstanding desire to lengthen the elementary school day, and that it’s not “prompted” by the switch to counting hours in any meaningful sense.

I’ll keep posting as I hear more about it.

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