Day being extended at elementary, intermediate schools

Published 11:43 am Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The school day will be a bit longer for the nearly 5,000 elementary and intermediate students in the Vicksburg Warren School District beginning when classes resume, and all students will be required to read more.

“Right now, I’m just bringing the district into compliance,” Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Duran Swinford said. “We are going to fully enforce the number of minutes. There is a policy and a legal requirement of meeting a certain number of minutes.”

School hours for the 1,414 junior high, the 2,306 high school and 250 Grove Street Alternative School students will not change, Swinford said.

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Hours at the eight elementary and intermediate schools through May were 8:20 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. When the new school year commences on Aug. 8, the hours will be 8 a.m. or 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or 3:45 p.m. The planning of bus transportation and breakfast service will determine the beginning and ending, she said.

Swinford said parents will receive letters in July outlining the new hours.

Hired in August, Swinford said she found when getting acquainted with the schools that the elementaries were not in compliance with the state law applied by the Mississippi Department of Education.

“When I started visiting schools, I saw kids going home at 2:30 and 3… 3:15 kids lined up,” she said.

Students are required to be in class for 330 minutes of instruction per day, which does not include lunch, recess or breaks.

“We have been in noncompliance and in order to not lose our accreditation with the state, we need to bring the schools into compliance next year,” Swinford said. The noncompliance, Swinford said, happened through the years as schools adjusted times to ease everyday logistics.

“It was nothing purposely done,” she said. “Over the years, that’s what it evolved to.”

Hours at the two junior highs are 7:32 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.; at the high schools, 7:40 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.

The second change will require that all elementary students have 110 minutes of daily instructional time for reading.

Nearly 200 teachers and administrators have been at professional development sessions last week and this week to learn about implementing the program and other programs to further teaching and learning skills.

Teachers who attend are not paid, but do receive continuing education credits, Swinford said.

The sessions, which end Thursday, are optional and are taught by education professionals of the MDE, Scholastic, which is a company specializing in literacy, Project SYNC and Solution Tree, an educational consulting firm.