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Norwalk BoE plots longer school days for young students, possible year-round schooling

Norwalk Board of Education Negotiations and Personnel Committee Chairman Mike Lyons.

NORWALK, Conn. — The length of the school day is set to get longer next fall in at least half of Norwalk’s elementary schools.

The Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously voted to approve an agreement with the Norwalk Federation of Teachers to, in 2018-19, either make school days at all of the elementary schools as long as the middle school days, or to enact a pilot program that would only include half of the elementary schools in the lengthened days.

This adds half an hour of instruction per day, adding up to 13 days more each year, Negotiations and Personnel Committee Chairman Mike Lyons said.

“We think this will give a real addition to the strength of our educational program,” he said, adding that a related agreement opens the door to year-round schooling.

The increased school days was worked out very collegially with the NFT, he said. Elementary school teachers get a 40-minute planning period per day, and two early release dates are added to the school year to allow for parent teacher conferences, the agreement states.

The Board can also add a school day to the year for a total of 182 days, the agreement states. Teachers will be paid an additional $250 for the additional day.

The additional day is already on this year’s schedule, Lyons said, explaining that it will only be added if the budget can support it, but preliminary indications are that it’s a go.

Year-round schooling was made possible in an earlier, interim agreement regarding school scheduling, he said.

This would include a 200-day schedule with four two-week breaks, he explained. The option is available subject to budgetary concerns and building availability; it might be done when the two new K-8 schools are built.

The longer elementary school days add up to a half school year over a child’s first six years of instruction, Board member Bruce Kimmel noted.

“I think it is going to be costly but well worth it and it’s something where really we have no choice because that is the way the rest of the world is moving,” he said.

As for year-round schooling, “I am really thrilled that we are moving in this direction because we are doing an injustice to students by not adjusting our schedule to deal with what goes on in the summer,” Kimmel said. “We can do that, we can make real inroads on increasing achievement all around, but definitely closing the achievement gap. If we can go to a year-round school schedule and at the same time really provide quality preschool across the board we are going to be a model for school districts around the country.”

10 comments

Rem December 6, 2017 at 8:08 am

A more effective solution to increase the effectiveness of education is to allow students to get the sleep they need. So flip the bus schedule so that elementary students go earlier and high school students go later. Everyone knows (or ought to know!) that sleep is more critical than more studying hours:

““At the age of 10 you get up and go to school and it fits in with our nine-to-five lifestyle,” Kelley said. “When you are about 55 you also settle into the same pattern. But in between it changes a huge amount and, depending on your age, you really need to be starting around three hours later, which is entirely natural.”

Ignoring our natural circadian rhythms could lead to exhaustion, frustration, anxiety, weight gain and hyper-tension, he said, and could make a person more prone to stimulant or alcohol use and risk-taking.

“This is a huge issue for society,” Kelley said. “We are generally a sleep-deprived society but the 14-24 age group is more sleep-deprived than any other sector of society. This causes serious threats to health, mood performance and mental health.” –> This is from the UK, but the same applies to the US. Article here: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/sep/08/start-school-later-11am-students-sleep

Other School Districts have already enacted late-start schools such as in Minnesota and North Carolina, and it was being considered by New York. Somehow those schools got the bus problem worked out so Norwalk can do it too:
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/07/25/high-schools-with-late-start-times-help-teens-but-bus-schedules-and-after.html

Neal Konstantin December 6, 2017 at 7:21 pm

The headline implying this is some sort of plot is unfortunate. Kids do not get enough instruction time and many just don’t have the hours to fully learn and integrate all the material. Thank you BOE for pursuing both these concepts. It will give more students a better chance to succeed.

Donna Smirniotopoulos December 6, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Thank you for noting that Neal. I too had a problem with “plot” in this context. It’s attention grabbing but implies something nefarious on the part of the BOE.

Gloria Mary Grant December 7, 2017 at 6:48 am

An extended school day will help cover the required material. However, a year long school calendar in schools without air conditioning, is cruel. The students will not be able to concentrate in these conditions. Children need down time for creativity; families need time to recreate, travel, read together, even work together. I am against year round schooling.

Lisa Brinton Thomson December 7, 2017 at 9:28 am

I was also concerned with use of the word ‘plot’ for the BOE increase in the elementary school day because this has been a long standing issue, dating back to my Red Apples reform efforts in 2011. At that time, I compiled and benchmarked Norwalk’s 2009-09 instructional hours versus wealthier towns and those with similar economics to Norwalk. The data was taken from the Ct. Dept. of Education website and indicated that Norwalk had the lowest instructional time at the elementary level, fell within the mid-range for middle school and had the highest instructional hours at the high school level.

Here were the elementary instructional hours for 2008-09 school year per the Ct. Dept. of Ed website:

Bridgeport: 1008 hours
Darien: 999 hours
New Canaan: 1007 hours
New Haven: 998.6 hours
Norwalk: 913 hours
Stamford: 975 hours
Westport: 1032 hours
Wilton: 962 hours

Bob Welsh December 7, 2017 at 9:55 am

Lisa – Great info, thanks. Do you happen to know if the other districts have longer school days, or more school days, or some combination of both?

Claire schoen December 7, 2017 at 10:16 am

For those concerned about language of the headline- the word ‘plot’ also means to map out in sequence, as in plotting the future.
Why are we all so quick to assume nefarious behavior?

Donna Smirniotopoulos December 7, 2017 at 10:26 am

@Claire, experience is a great teacher. We assume the negative connotation of “plot” based on recent BOE coverage here. Thank you for pointing out both an alternative meaning and the potential for ambiguity and a negative reading of “plot” where none may have been intended.

Lisa Brinton Thomson December 9, 2017 at 2:38 pm

Bob, I do not. However, here are two websites that I used in the past that allows one to compare and contrast different town data: http://www.conncan.org has a database of teacher and administrator contracts across the different towns in Connecticut and the State Dept. of Education at http://www.sde.ct.gov has a myriad of data but it takes time to compile.

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