New York Experimenting with Longer School Year

By Matt Porter

December 3, 2012 Updated Dec 5, 2012 at 11:21 AM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) For students in one upstate school district, the day is about to get a little longer.

Rochester City Schools will be the only New York school district to take part in a five-state pilot program including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Colorado, and Tennessee.

Participating schools will have to add at least 300 hours to the 2013-2014 academic year. It will be funded partly by federal and state grants, but also through private foundations including a $3 million grant from the Ford Foundation.

But in the Southern Tier, the reaction is mixed on whether or not an extended year will help America's public schools make the grade.

Rob Sostre spends each afternoon helping students with their homework at the Binghamton Boys and Girls Club.

As a professional and parent, he doesn't think adding more hours to the school day will necessarily help his kids perform better.

"It can discourage kids from wanting to go to school because they know that the day is going to be so long," said Sostre.

And more school could affect how his program at the Boys and Girls Club. Currently, the after school program provides study time, recreational activities, and dinner each afternoon.

"If they were to not get here, until an hour later," Sostre said, "We would have to revamp the whole schedule to make it work."

A revamp he said would likely cut into important programs for student development.

In Broome and Tioga counties, administrators said they could see the benefit of a longer day.

District Superintendent Allen Buyck for Broome-Tioga BOCES said it's not about how long students stay in school, but how the school uses the extra time.

"So I think it might allow a school to individualize their instructional practices," make it good for each student in the school based on their individual needs."

The National Center on Time and Learning reports that there are now 1,002 schools with extended school years.

That's up 53 percent since 2009.

Buyck said the district is on a wait and see approach.

Costs including teacher contracts and transportation time would have to be examined before any consideration of a longer year.

Back at the Boys and Girls Club, parents like Sostre said his kids' time out of school is as important as their time in.

"They're in school for seven hours," he said, "They should be able to come out of school, and maybe watch a little cartoons in between getting their homework done and stuff like that."

It's a balance now being considered in New York, and across the nation.