TOLEDO, Ohio — A proposal that would extend the amount of time students spend at their school building is drawing mixed reactions from parents, some of whom say the "Family Friendly Schools Act" just would not help them. Others see merit in the bill, which in part is intended to better align a parent's end of the work day with when they can pick up their children.
Democratic senators Kamala Harris and Ohio's Sherrod Brown have proposed the bill that, if approved, would mean school buildings would open at 8 a.m. and close at 6 p.m., extending the length of time that students could stay at their school and aiming to better align with the time a parent could come pick them up after their workday is done.
Kids would learn during their normal school hours and would be able to leave once the school day is done. Kids do not have to stay but would be able to if their parents have trouble taking them to school and picking them up.
The bill would award five-year grants of up to $5 million to school districts to transform elementary schools serving a high number of low-income families.
The thought of keeping kids at school for longer has some area parents concerned.
"It's already exhausting for these kids, waking up in the morning and going that full shift," said one local parent, Abir Joumaa.
She had a child that is 8 years old and says she already spends enough time at school.
In a statement Friday, Senator Sherrod Brown told WTOL:
"We know that the school day often does not align with work schedules and how difficult it can be for working families to find and afford quality childcare. This voluntary program would help local school districts study and explore ways to help schools keep their facilities open throughout the workday for academic, athletic, or enrichment activities without forcing teachers to work longer hours or work for less pay."
In addition to providing resources to keep schools open, the Family Friendly Schools Act would invest over $1 billion in summer learning programs.
According to Joumaa, she still doesn't want her kids to be spending that much time at a school after they have finished learning and would rather spend the time to pick them up.
"I mean, I'm a single mother, so I always have arrangements done for my daughter," said Joumaa.
Other parents and policy experts see merit to the bill, including Catherine Brown, senior fellow a the Center for American Progress. In a series of tweets, Brown notes that the school day is about two hours shorter than the work day, which can lead to scheduling problems for families.
This proposed bill is not mandatory and intends to help transform schools that serve a large number of low-income families.
According to the language of the proposal, the bill would:
- Award five-year grants of up to $5 million to school districts to transform elementary schools serving a high number of low-income families into "Family Friendly Schools" that:
- Collaborate with community partners to develop high-quality, culturally relevant, linguistically accessible, developmentally appropriate academic, athletic, or enrichment opportunities for students from at least 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year, with no closures except for federal holidays, weekends, and emergencies;
- Do not close for parent-teacher conferences, professional development, or any other reason without offering full-day enrichment activities free of charge for students;
- Do not increase the amount of time teachers and staff have to work unless they choose to work additional hours, and are compensated fairly for the additional hours; and
- Develop and implement evidence-based policies and practices for parent and family engagement to support working families and help better align school and work schedules.
- Require the Department of Education to publish and disseminate a report on lessons learned from the pilot schools at the end of the five-year grant period
- Authorize an additional $1.3 billion annually for 21st Century Community Learning Centers to allow up to 1.8 million more children to access summer programming.