Principals to decide the structure of longer school day, CPS says

2011-12-02T22:45:00Z Principals to decide the structure of longer school day, CPS saysBy Magdalena Slapik Medill News Service nwitimes.com
December 02, 2011 10:45 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Parents finally have some answers about how their children will spend the extra 90 minutes being added to the school day at all public schools next year.

CPS principals will determine how to structure the extended day for their individual schools, district officials announced Wednesday at a town hall meeting at the Beverly Public Library.

"We want the longer school day to be built around the strengths and needs of the children in every school," said Jennifer Cheatham, district chief of instruction.

"And every school is different and every community is different."

District officials told principals last month to form planning teams at their schools. The teams are analyzing student data — such as test scores, graduation rates and attendance records — to focus their extended-day planning.

By January, Cheatham said, the teams must meet with parent and community members to seek input. Using that input, the teams will draft and submit a proposal to the district by February for how the extended day will be structured at their school.

"We have laid out some broad parameters for schools," Cheatham said. "But we want them to be flexible parameters."

The only requirements for the longer day are that it last 7.5 hours, include recess in elementary grades and allow teachers more planning time.

Cheatham said some schools will build in more time for core academics such as literacy and math, while others will add more time for enrichment experiences such as art and music.

Parents at the Wednesday meeting — the third on the longer day organized by the community activist group Raise Your Hand — demanded more answers about the longer day's funding.

"I have a problem with what you're saying because it seems like you're just throwing stuff at us and not answering specific questions," said Christina Ithal, a parent and teacher, to Cheatham's responses. "As parents we're frustrated."

Cheatham offered some funding answers. She said each CPS school would have a different budget to implement the longer day, most likely based on enrollment, and that principals would receive budget plans before having to submit their extended-day proposals in February.

Hands were still raised at the end of the 90-minute meeting, when library personnel kindly asked the attendees to leave so they could close up.

"Everyone here is so passionate. Don't waste it," said Sonia Kwon, Raise Your Hand co-director, as parents caught in discussion walked out the library doors. "Don't complain about what happened afterward. This is a time to do something. Go talk to your principal." 

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