EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 27, 2008

Two Haverhill schools consider longer days; Students, educators debate the issue

HAVERHILL - Ask 13-year-old Alex Hoops his opinion about lengthening his school day by two hours, and you'll get the response most would expect from a teenager.

"If anything, we need a shorter day," the Consentino Middle School student said. "I play several sports including basketball and soccer that start at 5 (p.m.). I barely have enough time to eat and do my homework now. It would be too stressful. No one wants a longer day."

Or so Alex says.

His classmates, Meghan Wren, 13, and Kayla Yameen, 14, are also leery of the idea, but they see the potential benefits, too.

Kayla wants to start learning a foreign language - Italian, Spanish or French would suit her - before she gets to high school. The city's middle schools, which have been hit hard by years of spending cuts, stopped offering foreign languages five years ago. Meghan enjoys science and says a longer day could give students the opportunity to do more interesting laboratory experiments.

"I play softball, basketball and soccer, and I wouldn't want a longer day to interfere with that," she said. "But if there were some fun activities, that would be better than all work, and I think kids could handle it better."

Consentino and Whittier middle schools are among about 75 Massachusetts schools in dozens of districts planning to lengthen their academic day within the next two years. Eighteen have already done so, fueled with $1,300 per student in state cash.

Currently, school lets out at Consentino and Whittier at 2:45 p.m.

The first extended-day programs began two years ago, aimed at giving students in urban, mostly low-income and low-performing districts a heavier dose of reading, writing, math and science. Most extended learning programs also give students a chance to participate in more so-called enrichment activities, such as art, music and sports. More and more, those types of activities are being trimmed from traditional school days due to budget cuts and MCAS-dominated curricula heavy with core subjects.

Although students' MCAS performance at Consentino and Whittier improved slightly this year, the scores remain below the state average in both math and English. Consentino is on a list of underperforming schools in Massachusetts that are being watched closely by state education officials.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Photos of the Week
New England News