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.”