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.