RCSD adding 300 more hours of time to school year

Posted at: 12/03/2012 11:20 AM
Updated at: 12/03/2012 9:36 PM
By: Ray Levato and Don Hudson

Thousands of city school district students may end up spending an extra 300 hours in school next year. It's part of an educational pilot program going on in New York and four other states. School officials are back home after attending the announcement of the program in Washington, D.C.

Would a longer school day improve Rochester schools? Would it help graduation rates? Would it provide more learning opportunities? The idea of a longer day seems to be getting support. Some serious questions are being raised about how that extra time would be used.

Candice Lucas said, “What's happening to the majority of our kids is not working.”

Adam Urbanski, Rochester Teachers' Union, said, “Most of our children need additional time.”

Dr. Bolgen Vargas, Rochester City School Superintendent, said, “This is a fact, too many students don't have the support to succeed.”

Parents, Teachers and educational leaders in Rochester all agree. More quality time in school would help struggling students. In fact, Rochester City School Board president Malik Evans says extended hour schooling is already in place at two schools here.

Malik Evans said, “You can call it extended learning, extra learning, extending the day. The whole idea is to make sure our students are getting more instructional hours."

But the key here, according to educators and parents is "quality time." And for Candice Lucas, who has two children in school in the district, she believes that means using additional time in a different way.

Lucas said, "Not just time, but quality time. We cannot continue to do what we have been doing."    

Rochester City School Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas agrees.

Vargas said,"When we talk about expanding the school day, we are not just talking about sitting in a classroom. Learning is more than that. We are talking providing students with the opportunity to learn."

Educators and parents are talking about expanding the school day because on Monday in Washington, D. C, Rochester was selected as a test site for adding 300 hours to the school year. Some parents are divided on the plan.

Juan Guiterrez said, "The kids get home around 6 o'clock - that is too late, you know."

Jewelsheen Brown said, "For some kids I think it will be a good idea."  

The district and the teachers union agree, not all students need the extra time.  But they believe many do and that more time at school could help them.

Vargas said, "Sometimes we give them an assignment to go home, but they don't have the resources at home to do the assignment. Yet we do have a school with well equipped library with internet access. And we believe they will be better off spending time at the schools."

New York is one of the five states taking part in the program along with Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Tennessee.  This is a part of a collaboration between the Ford Foundation and The National Center on Time and Learning. The funding that would be coming to Rochester is for planning a longer school day, not implementing one.

Rochester Teachers' Union President Adam Urbanski says the idea has the 100% support of the teachers, if it's part of other needed changes like smaller class sizes. He said teachers need to have a say in how this is done, but Urbanski says if it's just additional time, then it's just additional wasted time.