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Longer day starts at 6 city schools

Children leave  Henry Nash Elementary which  is one first schools Chicago adopt longer school day.  L-r are:

Children leave Henry Nash Elementary which is one of the first schools in Chicago to adopt the longer school day. L-r are: Janette Murrell and her daughter Jasmine Murrell, age 10 years old. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: November 11, 2011 2:22PM

Mostly A’s but a few F’s.

That’s how a scattering of kids at two schools graded their first experience Monday with the longer school day pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

At Fiske Elementary in Woodlawn — one of six schools to add 90 minutes to the day Monday — many kids said they enjoyed spending more time with their teachers and their classmates. The first daily recess in at least eight years also was a major high point.

“It was great because we got to have recess,’’ said Fiske fourth-grader Crystal Peoples, who rated the day an “A.” On the academic side, with extra minutes added to math, reading and science, Crystal said, “We got more work done.’’

But Fiske eighth-grader Antonio Smith didn’t see the longer day that way.

“I think it sucks,’’ said Antonio, who rated the day an “F.’’

“It was more time, but it was the same stuff.”

Some Fiske kids even saw pluses for teachers, who used to eat lunch with their students but got to lunch with their colleagues instead on Monday. The new schedule, said fourth-grader Desiree Broughton, “gives our teacher time to rest because sometimes we get on her nerves.’’

So far, 13 schools have taken up Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard on his offer of two percent teacher raises and up to $150,000 per school where teachers vote to waive the union contract and extend the day by 90 minutes this school year. The estimated cost once all 13 start by January: $1.8 million.

Monday’s new longer day, and earlier wake-up hours, took its toll on some kids who emerged from school a bit groggy.

At Nash Elementary, a neighborhood school in Austin that tacked an extra 15 minutes on most classes, Janette Murrell had to drag her fourth-grade daughter out of bed Monday morning.

“She was like, ‘Find another school.’ She was really flipping out,” said Murrell.

Her sour-faced daughter, Jasmine, gave her first longer day an “F.”

“I got frustrated, I got tired, and I got mad because I had to sit down for so long,” said Jasmine, who wants to be a doctor when she grows up.

But the longer day was fine with Jazzmine Reeves, also a Nash fourth grader.

“It’s good because we can learn more and get more education for what we want to be when we grow up,” Jazzmine said.

Several parents and guardians picking up their kids at Nash and Fiske — both schools on academic probation — supported the longer day.

“We’re all for it,” said Cordia McClinton, picking up her first-grade granddaughter, Tamia Spires. “The kids aren’t learning enough, and adding to the school day should hopefully have them learn more.”

Chicago Teachers Union officials contend more than 115 elementary schools have informally or formally rejected a longer day this school year. The union wants to negotiate the ramifications of a longer day after the current contract expires June 30. It says teachers are being offered what amounts to less than minimum wage to work a 29 percent longer school day.

“The ‘Longer School Day’ political slogan cannot substitute for a coherent education plan,’’ CTU President Karen Lewis said Monday in a news release. “There has been no meaningful discussion with educators, parents or the community on how to implement the longer school day.’’

However, Brizard has asked “pioneer’’ schools to blaze the trail this year of what others might do with their longer day next year. In an e-mailed statement Monday, Brizard said he had “full confidence’’ in each school’s ability to “make this transition a successful one.’’

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