September 04, 2012 Kerala Taylor

Should we lengthen the school day?

As elementary school students in Chicago head back to school, they will have to adjust to a school day that is one hour and 15 minutes longer than it was last year. With a potential strike on the horizon, it's clear that many teachers aren't happy about the change, but will it benefit the students?

Here's our gut reaction: More school?! No way! Kids these days already spend far too much time in scheduled activities, and the last thing they need is another hour and 15 minutes of sitting.

But on closer examination, a longer school day just might be a good thing. According to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a shorter school day creates "false choices," forcing "teachers and principals and parents and students... to pick between social studies versus science; math versus music; reading versus recess."

And of course, when such choices have to be made, outdoor play falls by the wayside. But with a longer school day, some Chicago public schools are now offering recess for the first time in 30 years.

Alondra Nino, a student at Caesar Chavez Elementary School, told WBEZ radio: “For me, it’s always been a problem concentrating on work. And if it’s all work, work, work, it’s even harder. And now having an extra break, it’s actually going to be easier for me.”

In a perfect world, play would be an integral part of all curricula, no matter how short (or long) the school day. And in a perfect world, all kids would get to play outdoors after school. But in the imperfect world we live in -- which prizes the 3 R's above all else, and which offers children fewer and fewer opportunities to play in their free time -- we fully support a longer school day, as long as it means more (or any!) outdoor play.

What do you think? Would you support a longer school day if it meant more recess for your children?

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