6 CPS schools begin longer days

September 28, 2011 9:22:07 AM PDT
Chakia Cole, a STEM elementary fourth-grader, said adding 90 minutes to her school day means ''we get to learn more and write more.''

The longer school days started Monday at six CPS schools.

"I'm all for a longer school day, but I'm concerned about how the kids will get home. In the winter time it gets dark earlier," Chacita Dixon, parent, said.

The additional time at Disney II Elementary School on the city's Northwest Side, which had already adopted a longer day, is used for literacy and science.

"We're basically having a consistent school day, a little longer, giving opportunities in core curriculum and visual arts and technology and physical education," Disney II Principal Bogdana Chkoumbava said.

Chicago public schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard visited several of schools with the new schedule as a part of the district's $1.8 million longer school day pioneer program.

"If it's 15, I'm happy, 12, I'm happy, or 8 I'm happy. These schools are showing us the way to get all the wrinkles worked out," Brizard said.

Teachers at 13 CPS schools have defied their union and switched to a longer day in exchange for two-percent raises and up to $150,000 in discretionary money for their schools. Chicago Teachers Union officials say more than 100 other public schools have rejected the program and want to negotiate the issue after the current contract expires June 30.

"90 minutes is a slogan, not a plan, and if you really want to deliver high quality education, you need to spend the time thinking through a real plan for how that time is going to be used wisely," Jesse Sharkey, Chicago Teachers Union vice president, said.

The union has proposed extending the student day 75 minutes without adding additional time to a teacher's day and putting a second language in every school. Laurence Msall of the Civic Federation of Chicago says education must be a priority.

"Students need to add another year total to have an adequate education," Laurence Msall, Civic Federation of Chicago.

Five more schools will begin this new longer-day schedule in October and November, and then two more will join them in January.

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