Extending schools hours to help low-income families

Proposal would keep some schools open for 3 more hours

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — California Sen. Kamala Harris introduced a bill on Wednesday that would lengthen the school day by three hours to better align with parents’ schedules.

Five-year grants of up to $5 million would go to local educational agencies to push the end of the average school day from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in 500 schools.

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.

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“We are a pre-K and kindergarten academy, so the students will be going to elementary schools in this neighborhood. So now we have 50 students and we are expecting to be full by the summer,” said Dr. Cytnhia Smith.

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Dr. Cynthia Smith is the director of Minds of the Future Academy on Jacksonville’s Northside.

She said she believes the Family Friendly Schools Act introduced by Harris is a good idea because the plan would keep public schools open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to support working families.

“All parents can’t afford to put their children in other activities, so this grant that she is proposing will give parents an opportunity to leave their child at a facility that is safe for them a little bit longer and for them to partake in activities, and they don’t have to worry about out-of-pocket expenses,” Smith said.

If approved, the bill would give $5 million to elementary schools in low income neighborhoods. Many students at Minds of the Future Academy are just a year away from going to public schools.

According to the bill, teachers don’t have to stay at work longer. Instead, schools would be required to develop programs for students through 6 p.m.

Smith said she knows that would help parents who bring their children to the school to learn.

“I look at it as an opportunity for students to learn a little bit more and be around positive individuals,” she said.

But some people believe extending school hours is not healthy for students.

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