Speaking at a community forum on the planned extension of the school year under a pilot program, teachers and administrators in the New London Public Schools said a number of different strategies will be employed and that collaboration with community partners will be included.
New London was one of 11 districts in five states selected for an extension of the school year by 300 hours, beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. Kate Ericson, chief academic officer for New London Public Schools, said each of the participating schools will design its own strategy for how to implement the extra hours.
“There’s no one model for how this looks,” said Ericson. “There’s no cookie cutter approach.”
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Under the three-year pilot program, Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School and the district’s elementary schools will each receive the additional school time. Dr. Nicholas Fischer, superintendent of New London Public Schools, said additional learning time will also be included at New London High School as part of an improvement grant.
The program is being financed by federal, state, and local funding as well as the Ford Foundation and National Center on Time and Learning. East Hartford and Meriden are also taking part in the pilot program.
Ericson said the hours may be included in normal school days, weekends, and summer months. She said the elements of the program will include focusing on school-wide priorities, individual academic intervention and acceleration, targeted teacher development and collaboration, increasing expectations, and engagement in enrichment programs.
“We are not going to have a circus in our buildings,” said Ericson. “We’re not going to have 40 things that just make no sense.”
Alison Ryan, principal of Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, said schools will be working to utilize the additional hours in ways that benefit their school improvement plan. She said the middle school is looking to increasing reading and vocabulary comprehension as well as further development of existing enrichment program, such as cooperation with local colleges and organizations.
“Really what we’re talking about at Bennie Dover is getting better at what we’re doing,” said Ryan.
Ed Sweeney, after-school coordinator at the middle school, said he enjoys working with such partners and that there are “tremendous opportunities within our own community.”
Margaret Lewis, a fifth grade teacher at Jennings School, said strategies will focus on how schools best use time and resources. She said schools are also looking to build sustainable models that can continue after the end of the pilot program, saying one possibility would be staggering when teachers start their day to extend the school day without affecting the length of a teacher’s workday.
“When the money runs out—which it will—we need to design programs that can keep going,” said Lewis.