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80-90 Minutes of Extra Learning Time for Students at Pulaski and John Barry Schools in 2013-14

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is expected to visit Meriden teachers and school administrators today to discuss a pilot program being tested out in the city that will bring 300 extra hours of instructional time to two elementary schools.

Students at Casimir Pulaski and John Barry schools will likely be in class roughly 80-90 minutes longer in the 2013-14 school year, per a new program that is being tested out in two of the city's elementary schools, an administrator said.

Meriden was selected Monday as one of a handful of communities in the country to partake in a federally- and state-funded pilot program in which participants keep students in school longer as a way to examine the effect that lengthier instruction time has on a child’s development.

An assortment of school districts in five states were granted funding— by the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning — for this initiative and, in Connecticut, the only other communities to make the cut were New London and East Hartford.

“We’re definitely excited about it,” said Tom Giard, assistant superintendent in Meriden. “It’s something we applied for and it’s a competitive process. So if it’s not something as a district that we believed in.”

The office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy issued a press release Monday evening stating that the governor would be stopping by Meriden at 2:30 p.m. today for a roundtable discussion with school administrators and teachers at Pulaski. Malloy, who has reportedly been a support of the plan, also plans to tour the school, as well as other schools in East Hartford and New London.

Meriden is no stranger to these types of programs, as Pulaski School has already been operating under longer school hours in the 2012-13 year. This initiative was funded by a grant from the American Federation of Teachers, which gave Meriden a three-year grant to operate the longer class for these K-5 students.

At Pulaski, Giard said the district will still continue to utilize that AFT grant along with the Ford Foundation grant through the school year.

Giard said the reason why the district chose John Barry had to do with how receptive the teachers and administrators were about the idea. Already the teacher and administrator unions have signed off on the idea, and longer class times wouldn't be possible without their support, Giard said.

But, when asked, Giard also noted that Meriden’s standing as one of Malloy’s designated “Alliance Districts” — a community with low performing schools — played some part in the decision. The state is looking at what Meriden is doing, Girard said.

“John Barry is designated as a focus school by the state, so we had to develop a formal plan,” Giard said. “Looking at the best way to look at the needs of the school certainly is factored.”

Logistically, he said the district plans on holding sit-down sessions with the parents of John Barry students to go over how the longer schedule will work. He said they also plan on doing some advertising on it.

Perhaps unlike other districts that are receiving this Ford grant, Meriden has the advantage of already experiencing lengthier class time with the Pulaski students.

“We’ve recognized the things that we want to keep doing and things that we want to do differently in the planning this year,” Giard said.

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