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Chicago Public Schools system launches longer school day website

Chicagoans can post their ideas about what the city’s public elementary schools could do with 90 more minutes in a school day at a new Chicago Public School website set to launch Tuesday.

In the latest publicity move surrounding the longer school day touted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, www.cps.edu/longerday also will serve as a resource of information on the Longer School Day Pioneer Pilot.

There, officials say, residents will find a “fact check’’ page that addresses “issues” that have arisen about the move to add 90 minutes to individual elementary schools this school year — months before CPS can unilaterally impose a longer day next school year.

Chicagoans also can post their ideas on an “idea scale’’ that allows other parties to agree or disagree with them. And they can read studies supporting a longer school day, according to a CPS news release.

The website should serve as “a source of discussion and dialogue among Chicagoans so we can gather their input as we work with schools on structuring the longer school day city-wide next school year,’’ Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said in the news release.

Ideas from the website will be shared with the system’s Longer School Day Advisory Committee, said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. Readers can post “whatever they’d like” about the longer school day, although “spamming’’ will be edited out, Carroll said.

In addition, Brizard is inviting Chicagoans to e-mail him with questions about the longer day pilot at longerday@cps.k12.il.us.

So far, nine CPS elementary schools have opted to add 90 minutes to their school day this school year, earning their teachers a two percent raise for the extra time. Schools also net $150,000 if they start the program in September and $75,000 if they start it in January.

The offer seems to be attractive to smaller schools with very little discretionary money, as well as to schools on academic probation who may “think this gives them some kind of protection” from closure, said Chicago Principals Association President Clarice Berry.

“Those are the two variables I’m hearing from the field about why principals and teachers in those schools [that joined the pilot] may want to be in the program,’’ Berry said.

Chicago Teachers Union officials contend the longer day has been rejected on at least an informal basis at 30 or more of the system’s 480 elementary schools.

CTU President Karen Lewis has said she will not be “bullied’’ into a slapdash plan this year. She said the union is researching the topic so it can better negotiate how to lengthen the day after the current contract expires June 30.

The CTU recently released one plan to add 75 minutes to a student’s elementary school day — but no minutes to a teacher’s work day, that used the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools attended by Emanuel’s kids as a starting point.



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