Expanded Learning Time FAQs
The following FAQs are meant to explain the benefits of Extended Learning Time (ELT) and address some of the concerns we have heard regarding its implementation next year.
Expanded Learning Time is a strategy used to help more students gain valuable learning and enrichment opportunities, receive more personalized support, and allow teachers more time to collaborate and improve the quality of instruction.
The added 40 minutes to the school day, which adds up to the equivalent of 20 extra days of instructional time per year, will put students on a better pathway to success. This additional time will allow our students to participate in high-quality learning and enrichment opportunities — from personalized instruction and foreign language classes to arts programs, physical education and student clubs. This will better prepare them for college and career, and contribute to closing opportunity and achievement gaps for students across the district.
We are phasing in the implementation of all 57 “Schedule A” ELT schools over the course of three years, thanks to the support of Mayor Walsh and an agreement with the Boston Teachers Union. Schedule A is a model for expanding the school day that refers to an agreement between the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Teachers Union to add 40-minutes to the school day. The school day for elementary schools will be 6-hours and 40-minutes. The school day for middle schools will be 6-hours and 50-minutes. In addition to the longer day, teachers will get an additional 75-minutes of planning time per week. The schools the agreement applies to were labeled “Schedule A”, while the schools the agreement does not apply to were labeled “Schedule B.” The first set of 16 schools began ELT programming in 2015-16; two more schools started this school year; the remaining 39 schools will begin in the fall of 2017.
BPS has three primary start times each day: 7:30; 8:30; and 9:30 a.m. To maximize resources, the district tries to ensure each of its more than 640 buses serve all three morning bell times each day. However, the system of bus routes is not evenly distributed since there are more schools with 7:30 and 8:30 start times than 9:30 start times. Moving 9:30 schools to earlier bell times would require a greater number of buses to be on the road, creating additional costs for the district and increasing traffic congestion during rush hour. BPS recently examined scenarios that would potentially change many schools’ bell times, resulting in more elementary schools shifting to earlier start times and more high schools to later start times. However,due to the complexities and interconnectedness of our busing system, and in order to achieve our goals in a fair manner, we’ve decided to delay making any large-scale adjustments to start times for next school year. This will allow us to conduct a more thoughtful, deliberate and comprehensive analysis of altering bell times — one that will involve community input and reach equitable solutions.
Due to the fact that start times are not evenly balanced, we cannot move any one school to a 7:30 or 8:30 time without also moving at least one other school, with a similar number of buses and in the same part of the city, from a 7:30 or 8:30 start time to a 9:30 start time. Lacking such an offsetting move, the district would incur significant added costs. It would not be equitable to allow one school’s start time to change, at an added cost to the district, without doing the same for other schools in a similar situation.
BPS strongly considered this across the district and will pilot this approach next year with the Patrick J. Kennedy and Otis schools in East Boston. The Kennedy will shift from 9:30 to 8:30, and the Otis will move up, slightly, from 8:30 to 8:20. The two schools are less than a half-mile apart and have almost identical enrollment patterns: most of their bus riders come from the same five bus stops in East Boston. Linking the two schools will actually reduce the number of buses needed for the two schools, from 8 to 5, and produce cost savings. Outside of East Boston, BPS could find no other pairing of schools that could be linked without significant extra busing costs. This is largely because of two factors:
- The geographic distribution of school enrollments: While some schools might be located near each other, they often draw students from different neighborhoods. A pair of schools might have some bus routes that overlap, but routes that do not overlap or cannot be combined will require additional buses.
- Traffic patterns and distance between schools: It is not operationally feasible to pair some schools located close to one another, even if less than a mile apart. Due to traffic volume in the area and the time needed to load or unload buses, drivers would not have enough time to pick up all of their students and deliver on time to both schools. If accounting for this by staggering the schools’ start times, then students would often be riding the buses for too long.
BPS is under a contractual agreement with the Boston Teachers Union to implement by next school year (2017-18) all remaining “Schedule A” schools. It is not possible for any schools in this group to delay participating in extended learning time.
BPS is committed to working with each school to make sure its students remain safe and its dismissal procedures are carried out efficiently. BPS Operations, Safety, and School Police staff will take an active role in supporting all schools transitioning to new dismissal times. BPS will also work with other City agencies, including the Boston Police and Transportation departments, to ensure that adjustments are made to school-zone markings and crossing-guard assignments to reflect the new dismissal times.