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Longer school days in store for some in 5 states

HARTFORD, Conn. — Thousands of students in five states may be spending more time at school.

More than 9,000 students are attending select, high-poverty schools in Connecticut, Colorado, Massachusetts and New York that have developed expanded school schedules as part of the TIME Collaborative, or Time for Innovation Matters in Education. Some of those schools are already using the extra time for additional instruction and enrichment.

A second group of schools in those same four states and Tennessee was announced Wednesday. They’re all planning a redesign of their schedules for the 2014-15 year, although some schools in the end may not participate. Those schools serve about 13,000 students.

The 11 districts that are considering adding some of their schools, or additional schools, to the program are Boulder Valley and Denver in Colorado; Bridgeport, Meriden and Windham in Connecticut; Boston and Salem in Massachusetts; Rochester and Syracuse in New York; and Knox County and Metro Nashville, Tenn.

In many cases, they would be using the extra 300 hours a year for things there isn’t enough time for during a regular school day, such as trying out personalized learning technologies and studying world cultures, healthy living, foreign languages, fitness and healthy living, and even scrapbooking.

“We really did this because we really believe that students can benefit from these enrichment activities and the typical school does not accommodate all of that learning,” said Meriden Superintendent Mark Benigni.

In Meriden, the Casimir Pulaski Elementary School started to increase its school day last year, and Benigni said attendance rates and performance on test scores all improved. This year, the school day was increased by 100 minutes at Pulaski, as well as a second elementary school.

Benigni said the response from students, parents and teachers has been positive. In some cases, the students get to choose which classes they want to take.

“Whenever we can add voice and choice, we know that good things can happen,” he said.

In Boulder County, students at Pioneer Elementary are using an extra 45 minutes a day for technology instruction and independent study. The district plans to lengthen the school day at another elementary school next year.

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