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    Board votes to increase school time and improve after-school program

    The controversy around Albany’s staggered reading program was partly settled after a majority of members of the Board of Education voted for changing school schedule and providing better after-school services Tuesday.

    The board voted 3 to 2 to continue the staggered reading program, to further increase school time, and to promise families affordable after-school programs.

    Each first, second, or third grader in Albany will get a total of 50,400 minutes in class instruction from the next school year on, which is about 70 hours longer than that of their current schedule.

    The specific schedule has not been determined, however. Superintendent Marla Stephenson proposed a plan in which children start and leave school at similar times as they do now; but the time they spend on recess and in small-group reading is shortened, thus they get more instructional minutes overall.

    This proposal was questioned by board members and people from the public at the Tuesday meeting, who are concerned that kids and teachers are rushed from class to class, and the cherished small-group reading time is compromised without sound reasons.

    “If we want healthy, well-rounded children, I don’t see how eliminating recess time is going to accomplish that, ” said Board Member Patricia Low.

    Stephenson said she drafted the plan to accommodate different needs: to meet parents’ demand of adding instruction time for students, while not to increase the length of a teaching day for teachers.

    “There is no solution that would make everybody absolutely happy,” she said.

    After hearing comments from the board and the public, Stephenson said she would work with staff to come up with new plans to increase school time.

    Board Member Miriam Walden talked passionately to challenge the belief that school time for 1-3rd graders should be longer.

    “It does not meet the real needs of students and the real needs of families,” she said. (click to read a commentary she wrote earlier on the topic. )

    Board Member Patricia Low also said she didn’t think intensified academic training necessarily benefits young children.

    But Board Member David Glasser said that first to third graders in Albany spend an hour less in school than most other kids in California, a point he had repeated several times at previous board meetings.

    Board Member Ron Rosenbaum also believed the school day needs to be longer, since the current curriculum is being revised to give kids more time in learning math, and kids also need vigorous instructions in the other subjects, such as reading, science, P.E., and arts.

    “I don’t believe that we can do it all without enough (school) minutes in a day, ” said Rosenbaum.

    Board President Jamie Calloway had similiar opinions and voted with Glasser and Rosenbaum to increase instruction time for the children.

    The board also put into its resolution a promise to help families address their childcare needs: the school district will use its facilities to provide a new affordable after-school program.

    “The Albany YMCA and the school district are working out the details of such a program. The costs will be in the range of $5 to $ 7 per day. Classes will be held in the multipurpose rooms of each elementary school, ” Stephenson wrote in a report to the board.

    Stephenson said that parents’ needs for childcare will largely be satisfied with the combination of the new program and an existing one.

    A number of parents and teachers talked on the issues. Click here to watch the complete video recording of the meeting. And here are some earlier stories on the topic.

    Albany school district in the course of changing a “core bargain”

    Albany parents split over staggered reading program

    Article by Linda (Linjun) Fan.

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