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Parents cite growing opposition to longer school day

Updated: February 27, 2012 10:00AM

Parents charged Wednesday that the opposition to a 7-1/2 hour school day touted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel is strong and growing, with more than 900 parents signing a new online petition against it.

“Why is 7-1/2 hours a done deal?” parent Tracy Baldwin asked school board members. “We feel it is extreme and unnecessary.”

“Why not 6-1/2?,” said Baldwin, founder of the website. “The opposition to 7-1/2 is strong.”

Baldwin said more than 900 people have signed an online petition at her website against the 7.5-hour day Emanuel and Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard have vowed to impose system wide next school year, along with adding two weeks to the school year.

“We are taxpayers,” said another opponent, Donna Molord-Somerville, a parent at Sutherland School in the South Side Beverly area. “We deserve our say, and we should be able to fight for what we believe is right for our children.”

Skinner North parent Delores Fischinger said her child is “exhausted, and his grades are slipping” since her school went to the 7 1/2-hour day as part of a pilot.

However, Principal Nancy Hanks of Melody School, which also joined the pilot, told board members that Melody would have to drop a key intervention block if the day was shrunk from 7 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours.

“Listening to our parents is critical so we are taking those concerns seriously,’’ CPS Instructional Officer Jennifer Cheatham told board members.

However, Cheatham said the 7 1/2 hours is needed to tackle a more rigorous curriculum planned next school year, while also giving schools the flexibility to expand art, physical education and offer intervention.

“When you reduce the day by an hour,’’ Cheatham said, “something drops.’’

Asked if children were exhausted at the end of the longer day, Hanks said “They have adjusted much better than all the adults.”

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