Students in the Appoquinimink School District will remain in school for an extra 30 minutes each day, starting Feb. 24, to make up for the nearly eight days they’ve missed due to snow and other weather-related closures this winter.
The Appoquinimink school board voted 4-1 on Tuesday to approve the extended school day plan rather than eliminate days from district’s eight-day spring break in April or add days onto the end of the school year, which is slated to conclude June 5.
“There’s not an ideal solution that’s going to make everyone happy,” said Superintendent Matthew Burrows, who recommended the extended school day option. “But we wanted to focus on the children and what’s going to have the most instructional value for them at this point.”
Burrows said adding days at the end of the year would have been problematic for several reasons.
State law requires students to receive 1,060 hours of instructional time each school year, while high school seniors must have 1,032 hours.
Extending the school year to make up lost hours would not have allowed seniors to meet that requirement before their scheduled graduations in late May, while younger students would still lose instructional time needed to prepare them for Advanced Placement, SAT and state standardized tests, he said, adding that students also tend to lose focus on their studies in the days leading up to summer vacation.
Meanwhile, eliminating days from spring break, he said, would inconvenience many local families who have already paid out money for vacations on those days.
Burrows said labor unions representing paraprofessionals, nutrition workers, custodians and teachers agreed to the proposal.
Nearly 70 percent of the district’s teachers also endorsed the extended school day plan in a poll conducted by their union, while a majority of presidents from the district’s 14 parent-teacher associations also backed the extended school day proposal, he said.
The decision comes about a week after the Colonial School District announced it would be adding 10 minutes to the school day and Providence Creek Academy in Clayton added 15 minutes.
“This isn’t to say that this will solve all of our problems if we have more snow days,” Burrows cautioned. “We have two snow contingency days built into the calendar that we’ll have to use if we get additional bad weather. Usually, those days are sufficient by themselves, but no one expects to miss seven and a half days or more during the course of the year.”
Those contingency days – on March 14 and May 23 – will be used if additional school closures are required to ensure high school seniors can still meet their graduation requirements, he said. Any additional make-up days would be added to the end of year.
Page 2 of 2 - School board member Richard Forsten, who cast the lone vote against the extended school day, said he believes all the snow days should be made up at the end of the year.
“If you’re in a 90-minute class in high school, adding 7.5 minutes to the end, I don’t see that as having any impact,” he said. “We were all in school as kids and we all knew that if it snows you’ve got to make it up at the end of the year … I just don’t think it’s helpful to keep students an extra half hour each school day.”
Former school board candidate and district parent Matt Brown was the only member of the public to speak out against extending the school day at Tuesday’s school board meeting. He said he also would have preferred the more traditional solution of adding days onto the end of the year.
“I think this is a decision for convenience rather than what is best for kids,” he said afterward. “A lot of kids have after-school activities that aren’t related to school, such as jobs, and this decision takes away from the time they have to do other things. I just don’t think an extra half hour a day is going to make up for lost time like a full day of instruction would.”
Reaction to the extended school day on the Middletown Transcript’s Facebook page was mixed with many saying the district’s decision would create added hardships.
“I have a child who has learning disabilities and getting through a regular school day is a struggle so tacking on 30 [minutes] is a big deal,” wrote one parent.
Parents who commented on the school district’s Facebook page raised similar issues.
“My daughter is in [first] grade and already gets home exhausted and cries during homework,” a parent wrote. “This will mean less time for homework and dinner with sports coming into play especially with an 8 p.m. bedtime. Not sure that I agree with this at all.”
A revised school day schedule with new dismissal times is available on the district’s website at apposchooldistrict.com.