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Boston Teachers Union Votes In Favor Of Extending School Day For K-8 Students

Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman speaks at a meeting Wednesday, during which the union voted in favor of extending the school day for students in grades K-8 not currently in schools with such programs. (Delores Handy/WBUR)closemore
Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman speaks at a meeting Wednesday, during which the union voted in favor of extending the school day for students in grades K-8 not currently in schools with such programs. (Delores Handy/WBUR)

The Boston Teachers Union has approved a plan to add 40 minutes to the school day for all elementary and middle schools that don't already have extended day programs.

That's about two-thirds of the schools serving Boston Public School students in grades K-8 — or nearly 60 schools.

The union's leadership had already agreed to the deal with the Boston School Department and Boston School Committee. The school committee must still approve the plan.

Richard Stutman, the president of the teacher's union, says about 800 union members attended Wednesday night's meeting and "voted roughly 4-to-1 in favor of this."

"Now it's no longer a tentative agreement. It's a permanent agreement," he said. "We're very happy about that."

Stutman says those opposed raised logistical — and not philosophical — issues about having a longer school day.

"The logistical issue of trying to get some younger students home at 4 o'clock was the primary concern, and it came up repeatedly," he said.

The plan will be implemented in phases over three years, beginning with the first 20 schools this fall. Stutman says there will be a "school-by-school decision" made on how to implement the 40-minute block of time, depending on what the school community thinks it needs.

Teachers will also be given extra planning time, according to Stutman, who said most of that time will be "devoted specifically to planning for the extended day."

Chris-Ann Dawkins, a teacher at the Henry L. Higginson School in Roxbury, says she voted in favor of the plan.

"I voted 'yes.' I definitely think that it's what's best for the students," she said. "I think with the plans to have more arts programs, music programs and then three additional days of actual instructional time, I think it will be really great for the students in order for them to make the gains that they need to be successful in their academic career."

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah, a seventh and eighth grade math teacher at Joseph Lee School in Dorchester, said he considered the arguments raised by some opponents but decided to vote in favor of the plan.

"It was a very tough decision, and I'm hoping that this is the right decision and we'll see some benefits with our children," he said.

Teachers will compensated for the additional time. About a third of elementary and middle school students already have extended days. Teachers at those schools will not be getting the additional $4,464 pay included in this agreement.

The final school committee vote on the extended learning time will take place Jan. 28.

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Delores Handy Reporter
Delores Handy is a multiple Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist.

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