, Salem, MA

April 29, 2014

Letter: Extra time for 'enrichment' questioned

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

This is in response to the April 25 editorial “More class time needed in Salem schools.” Unfortunately, the proposal for the Collins Middle School allots less than half of the additional two hours a day — only 55 minutes a day (or 137.5 hours a year, based on a 180-day school year) — for additional core-subject instruction, and uses the rest of the time for so-called “enrichment.” As examples of enrichment, the Salem Boys and Girls Club and Salem Cyberspace were mentioned, along with Saltonstall-style groups led by people from the community.

As I said at the last School Committee meeting, I find it presumptuous of the School Committee to think that their enrichment choices for our children are more important than those decided on by parents. The hours after school are the traditional time for lessons of all kinds (dance, music, etc.), for sports, for clubs and other after-school activities, for homework, for chores, and for simple unstructured play. Must we lose all that to reach the magic 300-hour mark, even though less than half will be used for additional instruction? (We don’t qualify for the federal grant money that Salem is trying to get unless we add at least 300 hours a year; thus, the “enrichment” time.)

If children go to school from 8 a.m. until 4:20 p.m., as the Collins plan suggests, will they then still have a couple hours of homework, as they do now? That’s 81/2 hours of school and a few hours more for homework? For 12-year-olds? Yes, I know that kids in some schools are already doing this. I feel sorry for those kids, I don’t want to emulate them.

If we need an extra hour of instruction time per day — which is more than is allowed for under the Collins plan — then let’s forget the federal grant and apply for the state grant that only requires adding 180 hours a year, one extra hour a day. And offer the Boys and Girls Club and Salem Cyberspace as options for those parents who choose them, not as a one-size-fits-all way to fill the extra 162.5 hours a year required to get the larger grant.

Joann Hnat