DPS considers longer days for more schools

DENVER – Nathan Karet wants more time to discuss time. He is a parent at Denison Montessori in southwest Denver where school leaders are considering adding 90 minutes to the school day.

"What it means now is that every parent is now losing an hour-and-a-half of contact time with their kids and that's the concern for my family and for a lot of other families at our school," Karet, father of two students, said.

But, across Denver Public Schools, the idea of having an expanded school day has grown as an improvement for more than just turnaround and innovation programs who needed more time to help struggling students.

"We really want our kids to have more learning time and learning time clearly for core subjects like reading and writing and math and science," Tom Boasberg, DPS Superintendent, said. "But, also for enrichment activities, the arts and the music and the sports."

Johnson Elementary School went to a longer day two years ago. Principal Robert Beam says students get an additional 70 minutes of instruction time.

"Kids have more time here at school getting taught by highly effective teachers," Beam said. "They'll have higher achievement."

Beam says at his school students have more time for intervention and enrichment programs, as well.

"Just giving kids the things they need – ballet classes, extra art and gym classes," Beam said.

The longer day also gives teachers more time to be creative, Beam says.

"They need the time to plan, create, develop and talk about the lessons they're gonna teach," Beam said.

At Denison, the extra 90 minutes will create a three-hour block of uninterrupted learning time. Karet recognizes that this is a core need for Montessori program. However, he says eight hours and 15 minutes in school total is too much.

"For the 50 percent that it may benefit, there are 50 percent of us saying, it's not going to benefit our kids," Karet said. "We want our kids with us during that time."

Karet says the proposal is to maybe have school start earlier in the morning.

"An extra hour-and-a-half in the morning is going to mean our kids are extremely tired," Karet said.

He also believes the district is pushing this on parents without proper time for feedback. Denison's governing board, the Collaborative School Committee meets Tuesday night.

"Our understanding in the information we've been given as parents is that tonight is the vote for our school to move forward or not," Karet said. "We've been told since the beginning of the school year really that this was an exploratory period and there would be plenty of time for feedback and opinions and what we got instead was two weeks."

Mary Lindimore is the State Director of the National Center on Time & Learning. She oversees the implementation of the Time Collaborative Grants from the Ford Foundation which make the expanded learning days possible at a number of Denver schools.

Lindimore says the plans at Denison are not even close to being finalized, if ever.

"[The Collaborative School Committee] would like to get consensus around certain areas that they'd like to move forward on and I think that maybe where the confusion is," Lindimore said.

She says the CSC wants more input on the what exactly to explore in any possible expanded day plan. Eventually, an official proposal will be voted on.

"That plan is still in formation," Lindimore said.

Karet says more time is not always the answer especially for active families.

"Some students will benefit," Karet said. "We feel our kids are going to be harmed by this."


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