November 25, 2014

Extended school day proposal gains traction

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Connecting Youth Mentoring program also supported

Dec. 22, 2011

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

 

An extended school day for a select group of Williston Central School students in grades 3-8 is being considered by the School Board. (File photo)

Williston District Principal Walter Nardelli opened the Dec. 15 School Board meeting with a pop quiz.

“What makes a difference for kids?” Nardelli asked.

The question was rhetorical, but Nardelli’s subsequent presentation about fiscal year 2013 decision packets provided 16 potential answers, from which board members and budget buddies could vote for up to six they supported.

“The review process includes parents, teachers, administration, the School Board and budget buddies,” Nardelli explained. “The budget buddies and the School Board are the last ones to review (the decision packets). Everybody else has already given us their information.”

The results of the voting — which will be used as a tool as the Board works to finalize the budget — were released Dec. 21.

Of the 16 decisions packets, three were listed as preferences by each category of voter: retaining a math coordinator position, continuing to fund the Connected Youth Mentoring program and exploring an extended school day program.

Notably absent from any of the lists was a proposal to introduce a world language program beginning in kindergarten.

The Chittenden South Supervisory Union Board previously voted to remove funding for a math coordinator position from its budget. It will be up to the Williston School Board to decide if it wants to retain the position and add it as a budgetary line item at the town level — at an approximate annual cost of $56,194.

“I think if you look at the responsibilities of the math coordinator, (for) our whole Bridges (in Mathematics) implementation, all of the training has been organized by a math coordinator,” said Nardelli. “The other idea is that we will train our math coordinators to also be coaches (to math teachers) in the future.”

CY Mentoring is a program that facilitates one-on-one mentoring services between community volunteers and students in grades 5-8. Due to grant funding cuts, keeping the program would call for approximately $22,500 to be added to budget expenses.

The extended day program would lengthen the school day from the current departure time of 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. for a total of between 120 and 150 students per year in grades 3-8, and would be divided into three parts: need-based instruction, homework assistance and a student-directed enrichment component.

“Learning’s the constant; time’s the variable,” Nardelli said. “Who ever said that a six-and-a-half-hour day is exactly the correct amount of time that every learner needs?”

Board member Kevin Mara expressed interest in the extended day concept, but said it needs to be weighed against the cost.

“To me, this is one of the best things I’ve seen come forward tonight, but it’s at a very great expense,” said Mara.

Although the costs of the decision packets are preliminary and are subject to change, the extended day program is penciled in at $75,770.

Nardelli said the administration is looking into ways to potentially reduce the expense of the program.

“The other thing we’re examining is can we slide (teachers’) schedules? If we slide a schedule, then it’s no extra expense,” Nardelli said. “It simply means that their day starts later and it gets out later, but it’s the exact same length of time as the other teachers.”

Board member Josh Diamond suggested that exploring an extended school day with a small number of students could open the door for further expansion of the idea in the future.

“If we can elongate our day a little bit (and) if we can get concessions from the teachers in the next round of negotiations (between the teachers union and CSSU), we could offer a superior product to our kids,” Diamond said.

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