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Longer school days are here to stay for elementary school students in the Williamsburg-James City County school division.
The School Board endorsed Superintendent Steve Constantino’s decision to make a temporary 11-minute extension of the elementary school day permanent, beginning with the 2015-16 school year.
The adjusted elementary hours will now be 8:30 a.m. to 3:16 p.m. for Tier 2 schools — D.J. Montague, James River and Stonehouse elementary schools — and 9:15 a.m. to 4:01 p.m. for Tier 3 schools — all other elementary schools.
The additional minutes were first added in March to help the school division make up class time missed because of heavy snowfalls this school year. The school division saw a total of eight snow days and three delayed starts for the 2014-15 school year.
The 11 additional minutes allowed WJCC to meet the Virginia Department of Education’s elementary instructional requirements mandating the equivalent of 990 hours or 180 days of instructional time.
Over the course of a full school year, the additional time will allow the school division to bank 51.3 hours – or 9.3 school days – of time above the state requirements.
The extra time will be divided at the beginning and end of the school day – five minutes in the morning and six minutes in the afternoon.
Board members were unanimous in their support of the extended day.
“It makes sense to me to be ahead of the game,” Elise Emanuel (City of Williamsburg) said.
Ruth Larson (Berkeley) said the decision could have been made earlier, but was still correct.
“I believe this was the recommendation of the committee the first time around, and we didn’t agree to it,” she said. “We see where that got us.”
The extra minutes are the second extension of the elementary school day in as many years. Five additional minutes were added to the elementary school day at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, making permanent a weather-motivated mid-year change from the previous school year.
The additional five minutes allowed the elementary schools to bank 16.2 hours – or 2.9 school days – of time for weather-related closures.
In total, the elementary school day has increased in length by 16 minutes since the 2013-14 school year.