School District Extends Learning Time with Support from Families and Teachers Despite Challenges.

In a small town outside of Chicago, a school district is implementing a longer school day to help students catch up on lost instructional time during the pandemic. The district, Cicero School District 99, is providing an extra 30 minutes of reading or math instruction every day for its students, adding up to three additional weeks of school. The hope is that this additional time will allow students to learn key skills they may have missed and improve their test scores.

The decision to extend the school day is a rare one, as many districts have chosen to use COVID relief funding for other purposes such as summer school or after-school tutoring. However, Cicero School District 99 was able to make the change with the support of the teachers’ union, additional pay for teachers, and the backing of the school board.

The longer school day has not been without challenges. The district is still working out the logistics and trying to provide the necessary training and support to staff. Additionally, some students have had difficulty adjusting to the regrouping of students and the new environment. Despite these challenges, the district remains committed to providing the extra instructional time and hopes to see positive results.

The extended day program at Columbus East Elementary in Cicero, Illinois, is just one example of how districts are trying to address the learning loss caused by the pandemic. The hope is that by providing more instructional time, students will have the opportunity to catch up and succeed.

Fifth graders at Columbus East take turns reading aloud as part of an extended-day reading exercise.

The district, which serves a mostly Latino community, saw a decline in student performance during the pandemic. The percentage of students meeting state standards in English and math dropped significantly. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, the district negotiated a new contract with the teachers’ union that included the longer school day.

Teachers were initially hesitant about the idea but were eventually swayed by the promise of additional compensation and the opportunity to help their students. The longer day allows for more focused instruction and gives teachers the chance to work with smaller groups of students.

Students at Columbus East Elementary in Cicero, Ill. are getting an extra 30 minutes of reading or math instruction each day this year.

While there have been some challenges along the way, the district remains committed to the longer school day. Teachers and staff are constantly evaluating and adjusting the program to ensure it is meeting the needs of students. They understand that change takes time and are dedicated to providing the best educational experience for their students.

The Benefits and Challenges of a Longer School Day

Extending the school day by 30 minutes may seem like a simple solution, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Not every staff member is a specialist in math or reading, so additional training and support are necessary. Teachers also have to navigate the logistics of working with larger groups of students while still providing individual attention.

Despite these challenges, the district is seeing progress. Students are making strides in their reading and math skills, and teachers are finding new ways to engage their students. It may take time, but the district believes that the longer school day is worth the effort.

Fifth grade teacher Megan Endre leads a reading activity during Columbus East Elementary’s new extended day.

In the end, the district hopes that the extended day program will help students catch up and succeed academically. It is a challenging endeavor, but one that is driven by the desire to provide the best education possible for the students of Cicero School District 99.

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