Fifteen elementary schools across Chicago will have much longer school days next year, according to an announcement made Tuesday afternoon by city.
The school day will be extended by 90 minutes at targeted schools. During that time, students will take online courses, and be supervised by non-teachers.
Already, the proposal has drawn strong reactions, both in support and in opposition. Some view it as a much-needed enhancement to the nation's shortest school day; others see the move as an end-run around contractual obligations to the teachers' union.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Richard M. Daley lauded the "Additional Learning Opportunities" program as a way to improve the struggling Chicago Public Schools, according to the Chicago Tribune:
"CPS has significantly less learning time than other large urban districts," said Mayor Richard M. Daley at a Tuesday news conference. "We must do more to provide additional learning time for our children."
"This is all about children and not about adults," Daley added.
And CPS chief Ron Huberman said he had "every reason to believe" that the program would improve student performance.
But Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, wasn't so optimistic, according to the Sun-Times:
"To sit a kid at a computer for an extra hour -- I want to make sure it's not drill-and-kill and that the so-called 'facilitators' know what they're doing. Or is this yet another way to get around our contract?" Lewis said. "They keep trying to ding us every other way they can. Is this just another way to do education on the cheap?"
The program will cost roughly $10 million, most of which will be covered by federal stimulus dollars. Costs will largely be technology-related, including providing a laptop for every child at the schools, and improving wiring and broadband access.
Extra classes will consist of 35 minutes of reading, 35 minutes of math and a 20-minute recess and snack break. The classes, which will have 28 to 30 students, will be supervised by two facilitators, whom the CTU derided as "babysitters." The facilitators will need to have an associate's degree at minimum, a knowledge of computers and experience with children.
As a result of the additional 90 minutes, the school day will end at 4:15 p.m. instead of 2:45; with additional afterschool programs added on, students may be in school as late as 6 p.m.
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