By John Tozzi
Under the new contract, the regular school day will be shortened by 10 minutes for most students, while those testing at low levels will have to stay an additional 37.5 minutes Monday through Thursday. The extra time, a product of the contract negotiated in October, will be used for tutoring and test prep in groups of 10 or fewer students.The city Department of Education is requiring 290,000 students to attend the sessions- and recommending that an additional 40,000 attend, according to DOE spokeswoman Kelly Devers. The DOE estimated the extra busing for students leaving school at different times will cost $24 million.The extra time has come under fire from some parents who say the change will disrupt after-school activities and that students not required to attend will be short-changed by losing 10 minutes of the school day.But Schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended the plan at a meeting of Community District Education Council 26 last Thursday, saying the extra time would be critical to struggling students.”I know this is causing a certain amount of concern, a certain amount of angst, a certain amount of frustration,” Klein said.”This is about kids who need more time on task,” he said. “For those kids, they'll get an extra three weeks a year.”The contract also extends the school year by two days in September, additional time that Klein said will benefit all students.While union leaders reported that at most schools teachers were working with principals to make a smooth transition, the extra time has caused a dispute at PS 49 in Middle Village.The principal proposed using the 37.5 minutes in the morning before the start of the regular day so it would not interfere with afterschool groups, but teachers voted down that plan. In response, the principal decided to start school 35 minutes later, at 8:45 a.m., so activities previously held after school could be run before the start of the normal day. That way, he argued, enrichment programs like chorus would not be disrupted by the extra tutoring time, which causes some students to be dismissed much later than others.”We tried to talk the principal out of doing this extreme time change, because it's going to be a big inconvenience to working parents,” said Rosemary Parker, the union representative for District 24 and a teacher at the school.Principal Anthony Lombardi said the move was the best effort he could make to preserve enrichment programs for students who will not be eligible for the extra tutoring time.”The parents of the school, I asked them to work with me in order to maintain many of the after-school programs that we had in place. Therefore, I changed the start time of the day.”Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 188.