Dec 3, 2012 8:24 PM by Andy Koen

Study considers longer school days for Colorado students

When the school bell rings at Keller Elementary every afternoon, the Kiss-And-Go Lane becomes a very popular place. But should a new approach in teaching catch on locally, the afternoon pickup here might be postponed.

A new grant funded initiative called Time for Innovation Matters in Education (TIME) aims to give teachers and students more freedom in class by literally giving them more time, 300 classroom hours per year to be precise.

Around 5,000 students at nine schools in the Denver Metro area will receive $10,000 next year to look for ways to adjust their schedules to allow for more instruction time.

The money comes from the Ford Foundation with the backing of the US Department of Education and will be overseen by the non-profit organization the Colorado Legacy Foundation.

"I think every teacher that you ask would rather be spending their time, as much time as possible, teaching their student," said CLF spokesperson Heather Fox.

"They'd also like to have more time to learn from their peers about what they're doing that's working very well."

The idea of more class time sounds favorable to some parents at Keller.

"For my son, he's a lot like me," explains Carmela Fogel. "I have to see it to understand it and to be more into it rather than just sitting behind a desk."

Cassie DiAmico has four children who are school aged and says the hours during the day are a nice reprieve.

"But also for them, it's a good foundation," she said. "To be more competitive in the world we need to really have more time in school."

Other parents like Alicia Albinana say there are practical reasons to keep things the same, especially for elementary aged children.

"I think elementary should stay about where it is because I don't think kids can handle that long of a day."

Ryan Smith adds that parents can't depend on the school to teach their children everything.  "There needs to be a responsibility at the home too," he said.

Certain schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee are also participating in the study.

Extending classroom time at the legislative level seems very unlikely. State Senator Evie Hudak, (D) Westminster, is chair of the Senate Education Committee.

She points out that the legislature cut $1 billion in K-12 education spending in 2012 and doubts there will be any money to extend the 1080 hours of mandated class time.

However, CLF spokesperson Heather Fox says the goal for the participating schools is to make changes that are funding neutral. The group plans to share their findings with other districts with hoopes of creating reforms from the bottom up. The study is expected to take three years.

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