We're learning more about the new Rochester City School District program which will add 300 more classroom hours per year at several elementary schools. The program, called the "TIME Cooperative," is federally-funded and takes effect next year.
Students might not like it, but education officials are labeling the so-called "extended learning day," an important innovation.
"We know that this is a fact: too many of our students don't have the support that they need to succeed. And if we are going to mitigate some of the challenges that they are facing, we need to expand the school day," said Bolgen Vargas, superintendent of the Rochester City School District.
Parents we spoke with, agree.
"It's really an empty canvas that you can paint however you want to. I'm all for it – I'm on board right now," said Anne Geyer, School 46 PTA president.
"I think that it's exciting to think that there's more opportunity for the students," said Gina Grisdale, a parent.
The basic structure of the plan is this: 300 more classroom hours, per school year, at Schools 3, 9, 10, 19, 23, 34, 45, and 46. That extended schedule would begin in fall 2013.
There are three main ways the extra hours could be applied: as a staggered schedule, with some students attending early in the day and others later; as a longer school day, every day; or, as a longer school year. All three ideas could also be combined.
"Right now, there's a series of six meetings that, once you were one of the schools that was chosen, which we were, you go to six meetings and it's about organization, and figuring out which part of your school day you're going to extend," Geyer said.
Parents and teachers at the schools involved in the plan, like School 46, will likely have a role in deciding how those hours will be divvied up. And Geyer says she's been told, there will also be an option for parents to opt out of the extended learning day.
"If you as a parent don't want that, you can opt out. That's a decision you would make for your family, as an individual."
But at least one parent says, for her young children, an extended school day is a very attractive proposal.
"There's not always enough time to incorporate all those fun things that engage the students throughout the school day. This would give the teachers more flexibility to work in some of the drama, or the music, even before school or after school," said Grisdale.
The planning process will move forward at each school in the weeks ahead.