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Mandatory elementary recess in plan for Chicago Public Schools

Janai Coleman6 center YehnLee6 were among kindergarten first graders play during Ray School  5631 S. Kimbark recess one few

Janai Coleman,6, center, and Yehna Lee,6, were among kindergarten and first graders at play during Ray School , 5631 S. Kimbark, recess at one of the few CPS schools that has not only recess -- but a double-recess for k-3 kids. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Differences between current and future schedules

Updated: February 25, 2012 8:13AM

The Chicago Public School system for the first time has spelled out exactly what it wants the next school year’s longer day to look like.

It ensures recess for all elementary students, according to guidelines being presented to principals Monday.

It will have 82 minutes of extra face time with teachers for elementary students, a 40-minute longer day for elementary teachers and specific minimum times spent on subjects like literacy, math, science and social studies.

Guidelines for arts and physical education are fuzzier. Both were lumped in with intervention and accelerated classes for a total of 90 to 140 minutes a day depending on the grade. It was left up to individual schools to determine how to split that time up.

Elementary school teachers will have additional prep time at school, according to the guidelines, increasing from 32 minutes to 60 minutes a day.

High schools get 46 minutes more instructional time per day, but how that time will be divided is not specified.

And while CPS says it plans to hire more teachers who will be necessary for many of the schools to meet the new requirements, union officials and parents were not convinced.

“What we haven’t seen is any kind of conversation or commitment about staffing and hiring people in schools that could do that kind of instruction,” said Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey.

Also, the teachers union will have to agree to a new contract that includes the longer workday. Though state law allows the school board to impose a longer school day, teachers still have the right to negotiate their pay.

“In my opinion it would be completely reasonable” to ask for more pay for a longer day, said Sharkey, adding “I don’t think it helps education in Chicago if we undercut and cheapen the profession educators belong to.”

Principals will try to implement the new guidelines, said Clarice Berry, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.

“But there are lots and lots of things that are going to have to be ironed out,” she said. “This is by no means going to be an easy task and it’s really not clear that this is going to work all that well.”

Berry said her organization was telling principals to get requests in for more teachers “because in some instances you’re going to have to have more staff.”

Wendy Katten, director of the Raise Your Hand coalition was happy to hear about expanded recess, but was also concerned about staffing.

“Schools have to put in a schedule for a seven-and-a-half-hour day, but they have no indication of getting any extra positions to make these things happen,” she said. “Right now CPS is only funding a half-time art or music position for most schools.”

CPS Chief of Instruction Jennifer Cheatham said CPS is working on that. “We do anticipate schools will need to hire more teachers,” especially in arts and physical education.

And while leaving it up to individual schools to determine how to split time between P.E. and other subjects, Cheatham said, “I think the expectation is that every school will offer arts and other enriching opportunities along with P.E.”

Contributing: Rosalind Rossi

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