SEBRING — More Florida elementary schools with low FCAT reading scores will be required to extend their school day by one hour for intensive reading instruction in the 2014-15 school year.
The School Board of Highlands County is making preparations in the event any of its schools will have to add an hour.
“We are investigating it just in case we have to jump through some hoops and get it done,” said Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Mike Averyt. “So we are looking at how we are going to do it and what kind of costs would be associated with that.”
Legislation passed in 2012 required the 100 public elementary schools with the lowest FCAT reading scores to extend their day by an hour for additional reading instruction.
But for the upcoming school year the requirement expands to the 300 lowest-performing schools.
It would appear that Memorial and Lake Country elementary schools could be among the 300 lowest-performing elementary schools in reading.
Memorial Elementary was one of 60 elementary schools to receive an “F” accountability grade in 2013 and its 2014 reading scores are well below the state average. For example, the percentage of Memorial Elementary third-graders who scored in Level 3 or above on the Reading FCAT was 37 percent while statewide it was 57 percent.
The percentage of Lake Country Elementary fifth-graders who scored in Level 3 or above on the Reading FCAT was 37 percent while it was 61 percent statewide.
Averyt said since the lowest 300 elementary schools will not be known until the middle of July, it would be very difficult to implement the extra hour in less than a month.
The school’s bell schedule would have to be revised and the teachers and parents would have to be notified, he noted.
“We are probably going to use some of the other strategies similar to the other counties that have already been doing this,” Averyt said.
The clerical staff would not be affected by it, but the salaries of the teachers and the paraprofessional would be affected with the extended day, he said. Also, there would be additional transportation costs because there would be a separate bus schedule instead of being combined with the middle school.
After checking with other schools district’s that already had schools with extended days, Averyt estimates it would cost the district about $300,000 to add an hour to the instructional day at one elementary school.
The state does not provide additional funding for the extra hour of reading instruction.
Districts are asked to use their current funding for supplemental academic instruction, which is used for summer school and remediation programs, Averyt said. “That would mean we would have to cut somewhere else because they didn’t give us any additional money for that purpose.”