April 2, 2014 10:58PM
By Molly Callahan
MERIDEN — Casimir Pulaski School is one of two city schools using an extended day to provide students with enriched learning, but just what exactly that enrichment entails was the topic of discussion at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.
In a presentation to the board, Principal Daniel Coffey said Pulaski students use their extra 100 minutes of learning time to have a nutritious breakfast, and to rotate through two sessions of activities ranging from Pilates to mathematics.
Along with those at John Barry School, Pulaski students attend school for eight hours a day instead of six. Next year, students at Roger Sherman School will join the extended-day schedule.
Extended day is viewed by some as a way for urban schools to close the achievement gap by providing additional programs and activities. In Connecticut, East Hartford and New London also have extended-day programs. Other states using the program include Colorado, Massachusetts and New York. This year is the second for the program in Meriden.
Pulaski students arrive early for breakfast and get to choose classes that wouldn’t normally fit into the tight time frame of a regular day — enrichment classes that meet on a rotating schedule of 2 to 3:30 p.m. for first- and second-graders; and from 7:30 to 9 a.m. for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.
The options include fitness and technology activities; scrapbooking, art, math and woodworking classes; lessons in nature studies, visual awareness, world languages, and social skills; instrumental lessons; and a session of the student’s choice.
“Fitness tends to be one of the top choices students have,” Coffey said, where they’ll participate in basketball, or outdoor activities. “Kids love it,” he said.
The technology block is also a popular choice, Coffey said. Students work on one of the 130 computers at the school on trial-and-error-based math games.
“The idea,” Coffey said in sum, “is to expose kids to a great number of things. Then someday far in the future when they’re pursuing one interest, they might not remember where that interest came from, but it’ll have been right here at Pulaski.”
Board President Mark Hughes said that another goal of the games is increased student scores on Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests, which are similar in nature to the learning that occurs while playing.
“We’re hoping that exposure to the type of trial and error that they’re doing will increase performance on those tests,” Coffey said.
Though the first round of Smarter Balanced testing is only happening now, School Superintendent Mark Benigni said that the extended-day program seemed to be having other benefits as well.
“Growth results at Pulaski outpaced every other school in our district, and even beat the state average,” he said, “but I don’t want us to be judged solely on numbers; I want to keep doing what the students clearly enjoy.”