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Board OKs Plan for Extended Day at Jefferson-Houston

Underperforming school will see longer learning day for students and more professional learning time for teachers.

Alexandria’s Jefferson-Houston School will begin a longer school day for students in November following a 6-2 vote of approval from the School Board on Thursday night.

The approximately $600,000 cost of extending the school day is funded through Title I funds, which are regulated by federal legislation.

On Mondays, students at the K-8 school would receive instruction from 8 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. while staff would receive professional development from the end of the student day until 4 p.m.

Tuesdays through Fridays, students would receive instruction from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The initiative lasts for the remainder of the school year and takes effect for teachers Oct. 1 and for students Nov. 7.

School Principal Rosalyn Rice-Harris told the School Board on Thursday night that she had distributed 60 surveys asking Jefferson-Houston teachers of their opinion on the proposal and of the 38 surveys returned, 13 did not favor it.

The school has held a handful of meetings with parents on the plan.

School Board member Mimi Carter asked Rice-Harris why the school wasn’t considering offering extended day for just some of the students similar to a model at Cora Kelly Elementary.

Rice-Harris replied that she’s had discussions with administration there and they said they would extend their entire school day if they had the funds for it.

Additionally, “we’re in a different place from where Cora Kelly started,” said Rice-Harris. “Jefferson-Houston is [seeing pass rates] in the 60s and 30s in terms of achievement while Cora Kelly" shows slightly higher scores and is able to do intervention.

Carter also asked if families were going to be able to opt-out of the new schedule, but Alexandria City Public School Superintendent Morton Sherman said he didn’t think that was a good idea and “to opt out of that is to opt out of a great opportunity for our kids.”

The superintendent added that both he and the School Board chose not to implement a longer-day program last June or next year because they had begun to see "numbers that were very encouraging," but ultimately according to state guidelines "it wasn't sufficient achievement.'

Sherman said it’s not clear if the program or many other programs would continue in the future due to predicted budget constraints and looming issues such as sequestration, or mandated cuts in the federal budget.

Edmund Lewis September 29, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Numbers which are very encouraging? The abysmal pass rates, the teacher turnover, the musical chairs of administrators. Which changing numbers are encouraging here? The article points out that 60 teacher surveys were sent out and only 25 of the returned surveys indicated that this plan was worth pursuing. 25 out of 60 is not very encouraging. The teachers at JH may not be behind this because like other ACPS teachers they have seen their take home pay decrease this year while more central office positions are added, money is mismanaged, tax sheltered payments are doled out, and programs are put in place which the Superintendent and Board won't even fund past this year. November can not come soon enough.
Bea Porter October 01, 2012 at 01:58 PM
90 more minutes a day, so is that to make up for the now provided breakfast, snack, and lunch times? And, since you are now feeding everyone all morning long, will you be providing siesta or exercise times so the children can burn the extra calories and focus on learning? 25 teachers supporting the extra learning time, is not very many out of 60. I was told this time the teachers will be paid for the extra time spent, but will they really take the time to teach these children?
Leslie Hagan October 02, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Ms. Porter, a very large number of our children receive their only food of the day, or at least their only nutritional food while at school. Many of them have no meals between Friday lunch and Monday breakfast. I find it disheartening that anyone would begrudge these children food. Even in a city with a high average income, there are hungry children.
Bill Campbell October 04, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Extended day is billed as necessary to improve academics. Bea is not begrudging but rather is questioning how extra time will be used. This is right to do. Likewise, I think Leslie’s point is that, while questioning the extended day proposal, let’s not denigrate other supports that may be required. Jefferson-Houston certainly has families that require additional supports, but JH has less than 350 students. Even if 50% of the students require extra support, that’s less than 175 families. We need to make meaningful, real connections with these families to increase their trust in the system, help them feel welcomed and wanted and ensure that they are aware of the many supports that are available. This can’t continue to be about statistics and exaggerations. We as a community are failing REAL children and we need to make this personal. Who specifically is failing? Why are they failing? What support is available from the family? What additional supports do they need? What can ACPS and the City provide? What’s being done to ensure that these students are getting all available supports? Some of these are easy to answer but others require a meaningful, substantive relationship with families. This connection is the imperative. A healthy, emotionally-well adjusted child, a great teacher, and a positively-engaged and supported family & community, these are the “must haves”. Extended day, IB, a new curriculum, a new school, those are “nice-to-haves”!

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