Officials are exploring an extended school day for elementary students.
Seattle Public Schools wants to add a half-hour to the school day for elementary students by as early as the next school year. But the district must first align a number of variables, including funding and union support.
The average school day for Seattle’s elementary students is six hours and five minutes, which is thought to be the shortest school day in the Puget Sound region. The reason for it dates back to 1975 when the district cut the day short following two failed levies.
Now, nearly four decades later, officials are laying the groundwork to finally reverse that. The impetus, says Deputy Superintendent Bob Boesche, is the unequal quality of non-core subjects like gym and the arts.
“We want to give an assurance that whether you’re attending school in the north, the south, the east, the west, you’re able to receive an assurance of basic academic instruction in all of our elementaries,” Boesche said.
Right now, the district depends heavily on volunteers, especially for art and music, and that tends to favor certain schools over others. Boesche says one way to change that is to hand the subjects back to teachers and extend the school day.
Finding the money
Getting that done would be a major undertaking, requiring, among other things, money.
District officials hope the state Legislature will come through with new school funding this session, though it’s worth noting that neither arts, gym nor a longer school day are among the priorities singled out by the state Supreme Court in its ruling that said Washington needs to spend more money on education.
Boesche says the cost of having certificated teachers take over the arts and PE would add up to about $8 million and additional costs would be determined in collective bargaining with the teachers’ union.
“We can’t do this without our labor partner, the Seattle Education Association. We know that this is truly a partnership between everybody,” he said.