Classes resumed today for Chicago Public Schools – with forty
schools, 38 of them charters, extending their school day from five hours
and forty-five minutes to seven hours and thirty minutes.
The Chicago Teachers Union used the occasion to restate that while they support the longer school day, they don’t like that CPS implemented the longer school day pioneer program without teachers union consultation. Also, the teachers union says they don’t understand why classes at each of these pioneer schools go for 7 ½ hours.
7 ½ hours is way too much,” said CTU spokesman Jackson Potter, at a
press briefing this afternoon. “Raise Your Hands surveys have shown that
parents prefer the 6 ½ hour day. But CPS is fixated on 7 ½ hours. Where
is that coming from?”
The Raise Your Hand coalition did a public opinion survey this fall of parents. The survey did find that parents want a longer school day of 6.5 hours and also want CPS to put more of their focus on curriculum enhancement, as opposed to the duration of the day.
An immediate call to CPS was not returned. CPS Chief Instructional Officer Jennifer Cheatham told the Sun-Times in a story today that, “based on our experience so far, the 7.5 hour day is feeling really on target” and that, “We’re feeling confident on the length of time.”
CTU’s contract with CPS expires this June, at which point CPS can unilaterally implement a longer school day, but must negotiate with CTU over compensation. Potter says that while contact talks have started, negotiations over longer school day compensation have not been specifically discussed.
CTU is also focused on averting the proposed shut down and turnarounds of 18 schools. A focus now is Guggenheim Elementary School in Englewood, slated to close at the end of the year.
CTU contends that the principal there has told some parents to transfer their kids out of the school now, as the semester begins. Guggenheim parents held a press conference of their own this morning claiming that over Christmas break the principal tried to force immediate transfers.
An employee from the Guggenheim principal’s office, who would not identify herself over the phone, confirms that the office has, in fact, called parents and provided them information about immediate transfer options. But the employee characterizes this correspondence as informational. And she adds that in many cases it was the parents that first called the principal.
Guggenheim principal Vikki Stokes resigned over winter vacation. Former vice principal Robert G. Hubbird is now acting principal.
Besides Guggenheim, CTU has collaborated with parents and community organizations to resist the closings of Dyett High School in Hyde Park and Crane High School on the Near West Side. Potter says that further CTU actions are planned for next week – when CPS holds its second round of community meetings regarding closings and turnarounds.