Minot elementary students will be in classes for 20 minutes more each day

Andrea Johnson/MDN Washington Elementary is one of the elementary schools in the Minot Public School District. The school district will extend the school day by 20 minutes per day for elementary students when classes resume in August.

Elementary school students in the Minot Public School District will notice some changes in their school day this fall.

The school board approved a plan earlier this month to extend the school day for kindergarteners through fifth-graders by 20 minutes each day.

Assistant superintendent Tracey Lawson said 10 minutes will be added in the morning and 10 minutes will be added on in the afternoon.

“It’s something that we’ve been wanting to do for a while,” said Lawson.

Lawson said the additional time in the school day will enable teachers to spend more time teaching reading and mathematics and intervene with kids who need extra help learning.

Teachers will also have another 15 minutes tacked on to their work days in the morning.

Lawson said other large school districts in the state had already extended their school days. She conducted research and found that Minot had a shorter school day than other school districts of a similar size.

Lawson said the expanded school day will also enable the district to have more flexibility in scheduling in the event of storms or other unanticipated events that affect scheduling.

Lawson said she doesn’t think the longer school day will have a negative effect. Many of the students at the elementaries are enrolled in the district’s after school program and are used to remaining in the school buildings after the final bell has rung.

Joe Kolosky, director of the office of school approval and opportunity at the state department of public instruction, said the state Legislature made it easier for schools to make adjustments to their schedules. The state had formerly required that schools be in session for 175 days per year, for six hours a day at the high school level and 5 1/2 hours per day at the elementary level. In the last session, the Legislature changed that so now schools are required to meet for a certain number of hours during the school year – 1,050 hours at the high school level and 962 1/2 hours at the elementary level.

Kolosky said that will mean schools will no longer need approval from his office to alter the schedule. They will be able to extend their hours or lessen their hours, depending on the needs of the individual district, so long as the minimum number of hours is met.

Lawson said Minot Public Schools had been planning to extend its hours even before the bill in the Legislature was passed.

Lawson said district officials are still finalizing the school hours for elementaries at the base. The school hours for in town schools will be 8:35 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. this fall.