, Gloucester, MA


August 20, 2013

Letter: Is school calendar short-changing city students?

To the editor:

I have sent the following letter to the School Committee and Superintendent of Schools Safier:

“Back in June, I addressed you regarding my concern for the limited instructional time being offered to the students of Gloucester’s Public Schools. As I said then, the state of Massachusetts has a minimum requirement of 900 hours per school year of direct instructional time to be offered to public school students.

As I said then, according to Section 27.04, ‘No later than the 1997-1998 school year, schools shall ensure that every elementary school student is scheduled to receive a minimum of 900 hours per school year of structured learning time. Time which a student spends at school breakfast and lunch, passing between classes, in homeroom, at recess, in non-directed study periods, receiving school services, and participating in optional school programs shall not count toward meeting the minimum structured learning time requirement for that student.’

Recently, I came across the confirmed school calendar for the upcoming school year that this School Committee approved in March. Given that there are 13 half days scheduled, and accounting for all of the scheduled time spent in non-educational activities, I have discovered that you have scheduled our students to receive 1,038 hours of in-school time.

But 20 minutes per day of homeroom/breakfast time costs 60 hours for the year, minus another 30 minutes of lunch per day costs 86.5 hours, and minus 15 minutes of recess per day costs 45 hours. Another 15 minutes of transitions per day costs 45 hours for the year, and 15 minutes of snack time per day costs another 45.

As a result, I believe you have our students scheduled for 756.5 hours of instructional time, well below the state mandate — and this does not account for BMI testing, fluoride treatments, non-education assemblies, travel time to field trips, holiday gatherings/parties, movie days, fire drills, etc.

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