Pasco County Schools is planning to extend its school day to provide extra help for students who are struggling.
The Pasco County School Board on Jan. 19 approved a plan to invite elementary and secondary school students who are lagging behind to take part in the longer day.
Vanessa Hilton, the school district’s chief academic officer, said schools “have done a great deal of work, communicating with families about their options for semester two. In particular, lots of outreach to families of students who are struggling, or not making progress, in particular in MySchool Online.
“They spent a lot of time trying to welcome them back into in-school learning,” Hilton said.
The state required districts to develop and implement expanded spring academic intervention plans, including supplemental services and expanded learning opportunities, for those students who are not making gains or making progress.
To address that issue, the district will provide intervention needed in reading and/or mathematics, from Feb. 1 through May 22.
The program will run for 90 minutes at the end of the school day on Monday through Thursday afternoons, with an option for three-hour Saturday school for secondary students.
Transportation and snacks will be provided.
“Additionally, as part of the plan, we’ll also be building a monthly progress report to be shared with families, not just with students in extended learning, but any students who are not meeting expectation,” Hilton said. “That way, everyone is well-informed about how our students are progressing. This data is also required by the state.”
The extended learning will be offered in all schools. Students who meet the district’s criteria will be invited, but not required, to attend.
“This is not compulsory,” Superintendent Kurt Browning emphasized.
The district has reached out to parents of struggling students to help the students catch up.
“It is still up to the parent, as to whether or not they want their student to stay the extra hour and a half, Monday through Thursday, or take advantage of the Saturday session.
“It is there for them. We are spending great sums of money to make sure their students are successful and where they need to be, but the parent still calls the shots,” the superintendent said.
School board member Allen Altman said he wishes the district could require students who are struggling to receive the extra help. He said he’s personally aware of situations, and teachers have told him of others, in which students and their parents are both entirely disengaged.
While the district can’t require students to attend, Altman said it should strongly encourage them to do so. He doesn’t want the district to be held responsible for the lack of progress — when the district is extending opportunities for students to improve their academic performance.
Hilton also noted that if there are students who continue to be learning virtually, but are struggling, “it is entirely possible” for them to attend the extra instructional sessions.
However, they would need to do so at school because the grant funding for the program requires face-to-face instruction.
“School leaders and teachers really do want to serve students who are struggling,” Hilton said.
She also addressed Altman’s concern.
“I do know that their invitations will be more like recommendations. That’s also what they did to try to encourage families to come back from MySchool Online, if students were not successful there,” Hilton said.
Published January 27, 2021