LCN Staff Reacts to Kamala Harris’ Extended School Day Proposal

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LCN Staff Reacts to Kamala Harris’ Extended School Day Proposal

The official school day time would be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m..

The official school day time would be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m..

Shane Sellers

The official school day time would be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m..

Shane Sellers

Shane Sellers

The official school day time would be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m..

Shane Sellers, Sports Editor

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When Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris, a democrat from California, introduced a bill on November 6th backed by Bernie Sanders and other Democrats that would lengthen the school day to 6 p.m. to better align with working parents’ schedules, I sought out the opinions of teachers and support staff of LCN to hear what they had to say about this.

The proposal calls for a three-hour extension of school hours during weekdays and appoints money for the creation of summer programs and activities when school is not in session.

The bill targets low-income and working families who can’t afford to pay for child care in between the time a student finishes with school and a parent returns home from work. Teachers and faculty, the bill says, would not have to work additional hours unless they sign up for an extra shift, for which they would be compensated at the rate they get during normal school hours. The official school day would be 10 hours long from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for all students.

In a press release, Harris said of her bill, “My mother raised my sister and me while working demanding, long hours. So, I know firsthand that, for many working parents, juggling between school schedules and work schedules is a common cause of stress and financial hardship. But, this does not have to be the case. My bill provides an innovative solution that will help reduce the burden of child care on working families. It is time we modernize the school schedule to better meet the needs of our students and their families.”

During the grant period, Congress will evaluate survey responses from parents, teachers, students, and school administrators to determine their satisfaction with the program and come up with “best practices.”

Results among the teachers and other staff seemed to be mixed. Some were in favor of Harris’ proposal. An anonymous teacher said, “Lengthening the school day is something I am 100% supportive of so long as it benefits the students to a degree which equals the extra time and work that will be put into it.”

They went on to say, “This means, I would want to see case studies suppling proof that this would work dating back multiple years across multiple countries. The case studies must provide irrefutable evidence that this will benefit the students education. Show me this, and I will begin to entertain the idea.”

Mr. Josh Lamberti, a teacher in the business department, said, “Yes [I am in favor of the proposal]! Since the expansion of the day is not academic time but rather community time, hopefully that would mean a later start time for students in high school. That way, teens would have a chance to be fully awake for school rather than entering in at 7:15 AM like the ‘Walking Dead’.”

However, some teachers and other staff vehemently denied that this proposal would have a positive impact. Mrs. Lisa Macomber, an English teacher, said, “I am very much opposed to this proposal of adjusting the school day. As a teacher, I think it is obvious that I value education but education is not the ONLY valuable thing going on in students’ lives.”

She went on to say, “This proposal would force students to spend less time with their family, would prohibit students from being able to get an after-school job, and would limit their availability to participate in extra-curriculars like the arts and sports. The thought of taking those opportunities away from students makes me sad. We need to let kids be kids while they can; they will spend the rest of their lives working long hours.”

Another anonymous teacher said, “It takes great energy to teach, plan, and assess all day long. Plus, we often spend hours after school (at home as well) grading and planning for the next day.  Most of us have lives outside of school including spouses, children, aging parents.  If we do not have balance in our lives, we cannot be good teachers.  Having a tired and overworked teacher working with children into the evening may not be the best solution.”

A support staff member for the school pointed out, “I think lengthening the school day until 6:00 would have a negative impact on high school students.  It would not be conducive to athletics, after school jobs, or students that take college courses beyond the traditional school hours.”

Mrs. Debbie Demick, secretary to Principal Rawski, simply put it by saying, “Not in favor of this at all.  I think that a 10-hour day would not be more productive for students and/or staff.”

Teachers were asked what specifically they would have to do differently if this proposal would go into effect. The unnamed teacher who was in favor of the proposal said, “This would not affect my job because I normally work ten hours on school related materials (sometimes more) a day.”

Mrs. Macomber stated, “I would be very interested in how this plan would be implemented. For instance, would I teach more classes (8 classes instead of 5?) or would I have the same number of classes but meet with my students for longer periods of time (90 minutes instead of 60)?”

Much to the delight of students, she went on to say, “One thing is certain: I would NOT give my students any homework. I cannot imagine being a student and sitting in class for 10 hours a day and then having to go home and do even more schoolwork.”

Mr. Lamberti did not foresee a big change in his workload. He said, “Since the expanded time is not academic time, it would allow me to catch up on work.  The school store might require more time and resources to adjust to this change in the day but I do not foresee a significant change in work flow on my end anyways.”

Mrs. Demick offered an interesting perspective on how the proposed change would affect secretaries and other clerical positions. She said, “[My position] would probably be split into coverage between secretaries in the Main Office, similar to how we are scheduled now.  However, other clerical positions (i.e. Counseling Clerk, Attendance) are just a single person covering an area/responsibility, so their positions would have to be covered some other way; either extending their work day and/or providing sub coverage for the gap this longer day would create.  I don’t think that clerical sub coverage would be sufficient beyond just answering basic phones.”

Senator Harris said if teachers opted to stay late, they would be compensated at the rate they get during normal school hours. All staff, except for Mr. Lamberti, said that their normal pay rate would not be enough to entice them to stay later. “The longer day would definitely push me into the overtime bracket, so I would expect to be paid at time and a half.  Obviously, if it was something that was a permanent change to my schedule, I would think that the pay rate would have to be increased to reflect that increased demand,” Mrs. Demick stated.

Some teachers work second jobs as a form of additional income. An unnamed teacher said, “This would not be good enough because those of us teachers who have other jobs would most likely have to quit them due to the new hours. I would want this situation to be used in an economically satisfying way that would lead to the education staff being compensated at a rate which has been adjusted to inflation, along with the additional work hours.”

Mrs. Macomber would not want to work late at all because it would cut into spending time with her family. “Honestly, I’m not sure if there’s ANY amount of money that could convince me to teach for more hours of the day. I value the time I spend with my family and am fortunate enough to not need to work additional jobs to pay for our expenses,” she expressed.

Mr. Lamberti had the opposite view from that of the majority. He said, “Money is always nice but time is priceless.  If I was compensated an additional amount at the same “rate” that would be fine.”

Mrs. Macomber did point out that new teachers are in a different situation than that of the tenured ones. “When I was a newer teacher, though, I probably would have. I didn’t have children or a husband then, and I really needed the money to pay off student loans and to use as a down payment for a house.”

Teachers and staff seemed to generally dislike the idea of extending the school day. Most mentioned that the cost of this plan would be another major concern. An LCN teacher said, “The cost to set this up would also be a concern.”

Mr. Lamberti commented, “Of course…if students are in the building longer, all of these services would cost money and the state government is fairly limited in their budget and at the federal level what happens when a budget is cut or delayed and there is a government shutdown.”

Mr. Scott Boice, a government teacher, said, “Five million over five years would not be enough money.  Schools are not funded at adequate levels now.”

Kamala Harris seemed to have good intentions of trying to accomadoate schools with extra resources to keep students safe. It is important to note that that this bill was being proposed for elementary schools in low income areas. The goal of this was to find out if the bill reached our school how our teachers and staff would react. It’s clear that most staff are not in favor of this proposal, and even more are not in favor of staying late.