The extended day and year: one community's experience with public demand
The Murfreesboro City Schools in Tennessee may have the most comprehensive extended-day and -year program in the United States. In 1986, Murfreesboro decided that community concern about latchkey children was strong enough to justify extending the school day.
In its initial proposal for an extended day pilot project at Hobgood Elementary School, Murfreesboro officials stressed several considerations:
The district announced that one elementary school (Hobgood) would be open from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. with parents paying for the extended-day services. Four students showed up. Within two years, public demand forced the extension of the concept to every elementary school in the city. This year, 50 percent of the city's 5,000 elementary school students can be found in the program on any given day, all on a voluntary basis on the part of parents.
Wendy Day Rowell, a single mother, told the Commission that she had paid to keep her children in a babysitting and private day care situation for four years. She found it expensive, unstable, and generally unhealthy for her children and worried that her boys were "clingy and socially atrophied." The day care director blamed the behavior on Ms. Rowell's divorce from her husband -- although she did not put it quite that way but spoke instead about the "broken home syndrome."
In tears one morning, Rowell contacted the extended school program at 6:00 a.m., and the site director placed the children in an already full summer program. From the first day, Rowell smiled, her sons blossomed. They went swimming, skating, explored karate, Spanish, guitar and violin, and helped make a Christmas album. "The staff stuck with me through good times and bad," said Rowell. "Once when I was unemployed and my ex-husband stopped paying child support, I was encouraged to keep the children in the program for their stability and my own peace of mind. I was able to focus on getting back to work, which I did, and concentrate on my job without worrying about my sons."
Starting in 1990, Murfreesboro began offering a Summer "OPT"ion Program, a six-week, optional summer school program, open to all city school children, based on parental wishes. Designed to strengthen and expand reading and mathematics skills introduced during the school year, it also provides enrichment activities, including reading instruction one step above the reading level completed at the end of the school year. At the same time that it introduced Summer "OPT"ion, Murfreesboro expanded by four weeks an existing "Classroom on Wheels" project which takes enrichment activities right into local neighborhoods. The system also added Kindercamp, a four-week program emphasizing school readiness for pre-kindergarten children.
In August of this year, Murfreesboro opened its first K-8 year-round school. Parental freedom of choice determines enrollment. Distinguishing between the "school day," "educational services," and "extended school services," the school offers educational services from 8:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., and extended services before school from 6:00 a.m. and after school until 7:00 p.m.
Extended services will be available five days a week, 52 weeks a year. Interim sessions will offer 40 extra days of academic time.
Parents choosing to take advantage of educational services for their children after 3:00 p.m. (or during the 40 days) will pay a small fee, as will parents opting for extended services. Students directed by school personnel to attend supplementary classes will do so at district expense. Murfreesboro expects to accomplish all of this within its regular per-pupil expenditures figures. Mayor Joe Jackson bridles at the suggestion that extended services undermine the family: "You've got it exactly backwards," he responds. "These services support the family by making it possible for people to work without worrying because they know their children are involved in constructive learning."
For additional information:
400 N. Maple Street, P.O. Box 279
Murfreesboro, TN 37133-0279
[Lake County Schools] [Socorro Independent School District]