Local educators weigh in on longer school days

Twenty-thousand students in five states have no choice. Starting this fall. They are going to spend 300 additional hours in the classroom. It's a pilot program designed to make students in this country more competitive on a global scale. Can a longer school day really accomplish that goal?

"I think it depends on who you talk to and it depend on the type of child you've got," said Anna Vacca with the Jefferson County Schools.

She says adding 300 additional hours of class time in Alabama would have its benefits.

"It could help them with giving extra time for instruction. Helping those students who are slower with remediation and making sure they get what they need each day. With your brighter children it would give them a chance to expand knowledge and do extra labs," said Vacca.

Birmingham Board of Education member, W.J. Maye agrees. "The more you do something the more you're prone to learn," he said.

Still, both agree it's not as simple as adding hours and continuing with business as usual. There would inevitable be financial challenges. "The only thing about extending the classroom time is you would have to pay teachers more. And we in Alabama don't allocate enough money to pay teachers more,"said Maye."It's going to add an extra forty to fifty days to school. That means forty to fifty more salary days for teachers.that means a huge commitment for the state of Alabama," said Vacca.

In May 2012, Alabama's legislature passed a bill that does not allow school to start earlier than two weeks prior to Labor Day. School must end by the Friday before Memorial Day. "The idea behind it is if you increase tourism dollars, you bring more business into the state of Alabama, therefore you increase sales tax, which helps to fund education,"said Vacca.

Glenn Iris Elementary school principal, Michael Wilson, says the time students spend in class is priceless. "For students in urban district particularly, extended time is needed," he said.

He says student experience a great loss of information between the beginning of summer and the fall semester. Wilson says students in inner cities would benefit from a longer school year because many of them don't have access to summer learning programs. But Wilson also sees a down side. "You've got a lot of angles to look at. You've got teacher pay. You've got budgets. You've got utility and maintenance costs," said Wilson.