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Chicago schools CEO: I pushed to roll back longer school day

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard announced thelementary  schools will adopt 7-hour day next year.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard announced that elementary schools will adopt a 7-hour day next year. | John H. White~Sun-Times.

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Updated: May 14, 2012 8:14AM



Chicago schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard says it was “absolutely’’ his idea to roll back the planned 7 1/2-hour elementary school day to seven hours — a proposal he then took to school board members and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“I’m the CEO of the system. I bring ideas to the mayor, my board, and we talk,’’ Brizard told the Chicago Sun-Times Thursday as he departed a legislative hearing.

Actually, he said, “I brought it to my board first.’’

Although Emanuel’s announcement Tuesday that he was skimming back his longer school day proposal came as a surprise to some, Chicago School Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz said Thursday that alternatives to the 7-1/2 hour day that had been bashed by a growing number of parent groups had been discussed internally for weeks.

“There were a number of iterations,’’ Ruiz said. “We were evaluating all the options until we reached a general consensus that this was the best approach.’’

Critics had charged Chicago elementary children needed more than the 5 3/4 hours now common across the system, but not what could have been the longest school day among the nation’s big-city districts. In announcing the rollback, Emanuel insisted there was “nothing magical’’ about his original 7 1/2-hour plan.

Brizard said the decision to limit the 7-1/2 hour day to only four days a week in high school was intended to give teachers more common planning time — something, he said, he knew as a former high school teacher to be critically important.

But in addition, Brizard said, the high school modification also should make it easier for the system’s coveted selective-enrollment high schools to keep their treasured “colloquiums’’— or shortened days, usually once a week, of non-traditional, boutique classes.

Defense of colloquiums was especially vocal at Northside College Prep, the state’s highest-scoring high school. There, hundreds of parents and alums signed an online petition opposing the imposition of a 7-1/2 hour day on their school.

Ruiz said the new compromise was “a done deal’’ and did not require a board vote. How to pay for it is “the next step on our plate. Those discussions are happening. It’s a matter of priorities,’’ Ruiz said.

Meanwhile, critics shifted their focus to what will fill the new, longer day and whether CPS will find any extra dollars to pay for it.

Raise Your Hand, 19th Ward Parents and other school activist groups planned to gather outside the mayor’s City Hall office Friday, carrying signs illustrating what they want added to the school day — everything from music to art to physical education.



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