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Extending school hours for elementary students good, perhaps even for teachers

It’s unlikely that either many elementary school students or their parents will voice much complaint about the slight lengthening of the school day for young students in Minot.

Some might even assert that given weaknesses in our education system – from the national level down to even small community public schools – hours should be further extended. Education, we are told, is the secret to success for young people when they become adults and job-seekers.

The school board approved a plan earlier this month to extend the school day for kindergarteners through fifth-graders by 20 minutes each day. Other large school districts in the state have already extended the school day. The reasoning is that 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.

Minot Daily News applauds the effort to provide teachers and students the extra time for one-on-one help and remediation. It is, without question, a noble objective that hopefully leads to results.

The perhaps unintended beneficiaries of the school board’s plan are teachers, who recently reached agreement on a new contract with the board after much more contentious negotiations two years ago.

In the next round of negotiations in two years, teachers will now have extra ammunition when it comes to negotiating. After all, their work day was just extended, not long after this year’s negotiations led to a successful agreement.

This decision would have been best made and announced prior to this year’s negotiations. Teachers certainly did not get everything they were after this year, but perhaps slightly increased work hours would have empowered them.

Now, the school board will have to confront this next time.

Obviously this slight extension of the school day doesn’t amount to a great deal of extra required work hours and certainly elementary school teachers want to help students as best they can.

But it is still a negotiating tool. Teachers would be foolish if they chose not to use it in 2021 – perhaps to get some of the things they could not achieve in negotiations in this year.

The school board would also be wise to be aware that this could easily become a negotiating point the next time the board and teachers sit across from one another negotiating the next contract.

Enhancing students’ educational opportunities is never a bad thing.

In this case, the policy might just help teachers as well.

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