Longer days for some CPS students

January 9, 2012 3:38:01 PM PST
Starting on Monday, hundreds of Chicago Public School students are spending additional time in the classroom.

In all, 40 schools - 38 charter schools and two regular Chicago Public Schools -- were added to the list of schools in the district that are operating on a longer school day.

ABC7 went to Benjamin E. Mays Academy on W. Marquette Road on Chicago's South Side to see how the longer day went.

"It was OK. It was just too long, but I had a nice time," said Tatiana Brooks, student.

Mays Academy's 345 students ended their school day at 3:30 Monday afternoon. The kindergarten through 8th Grade CPS-run school is one of the schools going to a 7 1/2 hour day -- 90 minutes longer than the rest of the system.

"A 90-minute block of language arts is now two hours. A 40-minute class of science is now an hour and a half...same thing for math," said Dr. Patricia McCann, principal, Mays Academy.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard toured Mays Academy Monday morning speaking to students and teachers about the longer day.

"When you have the shortest day, you shortchange your kids. With a full day, you measure up to the full potential of your children. That is the fundamental difference," said Emanuel.

The longer days were pioneered by 11 schools back in the fall. Since then officials say students have already had 85 hours more instruction. That is the equivalent of an additional three weeks in the classroom.

While school officials say studies show more time in the classroom means better grades, the 5,000-member parent group Raise Your Hand says the extended CPS day is just too long.

"Their children are exhausted, kids in the primary grades who are commuting, they have two hours of travel time to school, so they have a 9 hour day," said Raise Your Hand Executive Director Wendy Katten said.

Raise Your Hand says it conducted a survey of parents from roughly 200 schools.

"A shorter instructional day -- a 6 1/2 hour instructional day in elementary, 7 in junior high -- is appropriate. That allows young kids to see their families," said Jessie Sharkey, Chicago Teachers Union.

As for the parents we spoke to at Mays Monday afternoon, so far, so good.

"In the beginning I thought it was a bit much, but now I think it's going to be beneficial for the kids. The longer day keeps them off the streets, and a lot of them need that extra help," said Everena McCoy, parent.

The Chicago Teachers Union still insists that it is not just about adding time to the day, but giving the schools the resources that they need to provide a quality education.

All CPS schools will transition to a 7 1/2 hour day next fall.