District extends school day by 30 minutes due to missed days

Date Published: 
March 21, 2014

School days have gotten longer in the Indian River School District.

Beginning Tuesday, March 18, the district extended the school day by 30 minutes at all of its schools. The day will be extended each afternoon to make up for eight weather-related closures this winter. (The schedule change itself was delayed because of a March 17 snow day.) School will begin at the regular time each morning.

Officials said they wanted to avoid tacking extra days onto the current end of the school year, June 11.

“It’s summertime. School’s supposed to be out,” said IRSD Board President Charles Bireley. “Kids in middle school and high school work.”

He was part of an administrative decision to begin the change immediately.

“We needed to do something now because the [school board] meeting’s at the end of the month. If we didn’t do anything now, we would have to add more.”

Moreover, standardized testing is quickly approaching.

“They haven’t moved the AP testing. They haven’t moved the testing at the end of the year. Teachers’ livelihoods … depend on the test. Those days don’t move. So we need the extra classroom time right now,” said Board Member Doug Hudson.

“The state test that is so important for some people. The teachers have missed seven days of instruction to prepare for that,” Bireley added.

And now, it’s eight days.

An extra half-hour for 55 days only makes up for 27.5 instructional hours (or about four days). But all Delaware schools have asked “forgiveness” for four other missed days, Jan. 22 and March 3, which saw official States of Emergency declared, and Jan. 3 and March 17, when State offices were closed. The State Board of Education was scheduled to discuss the requests at its March 20 meeting.

Delaware law requires 1,060 hours of instruction each school year, but IRSD padded the calendar with 1,100, spokesman Dave Maull said.

Support staff, including cafeteria workers, aren’t expected to lose pay because of the lost days. Some schools adjusted their lunch schedules so staff can work extra hours.

“At schools where the lunch schedule hasn’t changed, the cafeteria staff will engage in cross-training,” Maull said. “This will allow certain workers to learn new jobs within the cafeteria, such as running the register.”

Sports teams have also been affected by the longer day. At Indian River High School, sports practice will now end around 5:30 p.m., instead of 5 p.m. Games have already been scheduled (and often rescheduled in this snowy season), so athletes will leave for away games at the same time. However, they might have to leave early now for some home games, too, said Athletic Director Todd Fuhrmann.

“I think it’s good for testing purposes, instead of adding days on,” he said of the schedule change. “And the athletic part of it can be worked around.”

Parents were scheduled to receive automated phone calls in English and Spanish on Thursday and Sunday nights this week to notify them of the change in the time school ends each day.

In addition, the end of the third marking period is being moved from March 31 to April 2. The distribution of report cards will remain on April 9.

“We had to do something,” Bireley said. “It was more prudent to do it now than wait ’til the end of the year.”