Nov. 15, 2005 — Noreen Michael, Education commissioner, is not giving up on her plans to make the school day longer in compliance with the V.I. code.
She announced Saturday that new hours would be in effect at the territory's public secondary schools effective Monday, Nov. 21.
This announcement came on the heels of a press release Thursday that stated the change in class start and dismissal times would be effective on Nov. 14.
At the beginning of the school year, Michael announced a schedule that made days longer at all the public schools. Teachers reacted with demonstrations and job actions, and Michael withdrew the policy. The biggest complaint from the teachers concerned elementary schools where they said the longer day was not covered in the contracts for teachers. The new hours this time do not affect the elementary schools.
Tyrone Molyneaux, president of the St. Croix Federation of Teachers, questions why Michael has so much "tenacity" concerning lengthening the school day. He said Tuesday, "There are so many other things she could be focusing on." He mentioned the poor condition of some schools, libraries being closed, and books missing.
He said teachers won't contest the six-and-a-half-hour day, but from what he saw of the schedules some of the schools were having days longer than six and a half hours.
Molyneaux also said, "Michael needed to sit down with the teachers and talk to us about this." He said he heard that Michael now wants to talk with teachers about the schedule, but added, "What good will that do? She has already set the hours and a date for implementation."
He said he thought there might have been better ways to make the schedule changes, such as shortening the lunch period.
Juel Anderson, public relations director for the Education Department, said each school was given the opportunity to make the schedule as "it saw fit." She added that the schools have for several years been out of compliance with the V.I. Code because the school day was not long enough.
In the press release, Michael said, "The adherence to the provision of the six-and-one-half-hour day (not including lunch), if implemented at the beginning of the school year, could provide for a possible total of 1170 hours (90 hours beyond the mandated minimum of 1080 hours), and will allow the Department of Education generally, and the districts and schools more particularly, flexibility in scheduling necessary professional development opportunities for our educators, as well as faculty and other necessary meetings."
Michael also noted in her release that two additional days have been added to the school calendar at the elementary level to be used as professional development days.
She concluded, "The school calendar has already adjusted to accommodate the lost day resulting from heavy rains which occurred in early October. It is our hope that the worst has passed and that we will not have to lose any more instructional hours."
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