MERIDEN — Adding more learning and enrichment time at elementary schools is a goal the school system is steadily working toward.
Today students at Casimir Pulaski School will participate in the school’s second year of extended-day programming. John Barry School students will have their first experiences with the extended-day model. With staff and students at Pulaski adapting well to an extra 90 minutes each day, teachers and administrators at Israel Putnam School and Roger Sherman School had their first extended-day planning meeting this week. They hope to offer the program in the 2014-15 school year.
Extended day programming provides students with additional learning time, including hands-on activities. There’s also extra time for breakfast and more physical activity.
On Monday, a group of teachers and administrators from Roger Sherman and Israel Putnam held their first meeting at Putnam.
“It was the kickoff,” said Rob Travaglini, director of school and district support with the National Center on Time and Learning. He also attended the meeting and provided insight. The center is a Boston-based nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding learning time. It provides training to school systems looking to follow its mission.
Over the next several months the teams will develop plans for implementing extended day. Schedules will be worked out to accommodate the longer days and curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, and math.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the kids,” said Israel Putnam Principal Anne Jellison. “This is just the beginning of the process.”
Last year, Israel Putnam had an enrichment program that featured teachers and people from the community teaching students something new and interesting. Jellison said this is something that could be offered if the school adopts an extended day.
Groups from both schools will meet throughout the year.
“It is a lot of work,” said Lysette Torres, Roger Sherman principal. “But our team is very excited about it.”
Torres, like Jellison, said she had a lot of teachers ask to be a part of the extended-day planning team.
“We would love to see extended day at all the elementary schools,” said School Superintendent Mark D. Benigni.
Making sure the program is successful at John Barry and Pulaski is the first priority. Administrators have already noticed Pulaski outpaced the school system and state with its Connecticut Mastery Test scores in grades 3 and 4. The school also showed the greatest reading growth on the test in grades 3 and 4. Pulaski also demonstrated greater proficiency in all areas of the test in grades 3, 4 and 5.
“The preliminary data looks promising,” Benigni said.
Attendance rates at Pulaski were also higher than average last year, Benigni said.
Even with such positive results, Benigni said the school system didn’t start the extended day model to improve test scores. Benigni explained the premise of extended day is to provide students with more learning time. Teachers can be creative and teach hands-on lessons that typically there’s not enough time to do.
Last year the school system was awarded an American Federation of Teachers Innovation Grant to start the extended- day program at Pulaski. The three-year grant, now in its second year, allows the schools to partner with local agencies and receive support from the National Center on Time and Learning.