Duval County elementary schools end extra hour

School schedule reverts to normal after winter break

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Scheduling changes are coming to 38 elementary schools in Duval County starting after winter the break.

The extra hour between 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. that kids were required to attend at these schools will be going away. Not only is burnout among both teachers and students partially to blame, but also a state instructional hour mandate that the district was already exceeding.

Dr. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent, Duval County Public Schools, said he is confident the change will not negatively impact students.

"If I thought the extra hour was going to be the difference maker between students being at grade level or not at grade level, then I would certainly continue it, even with challenges with teacher retention and recruitment from the extra hour," said Vitti.

The extra hour, which was mandated by the state but not funded by it, forced the district to use money from other areas to pay for the teachers who opted in or to pay for substitutes for those who didn't. In September Vitti said the state issued requirements of a minimum of 900 instructional hours for grades K-3 and 1,080 for grades 4 and 5.

"Based on the guidance provided by FDOE as the minimum threshold, as Duval County Public Schools, we are already providing an extra hour. So that allowed us to meet that requirement without doing that extra hour from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.," Vitti said.

After reviewing the data from the past couple of years, Vitti said the impact from the extra hour on performance has been marginal and hard to justify the millions of dollars needed to pay for transportation and teacher costs to have them stay the extra hour. Vitti said schools will instead offer after school tutoring at no cost on certain days of the week.

"The extra hour was always a significant critique on my end as an unfunded mandate," Vitti said. "It was required by the legislature of the identified schools that were the lowest 300 in the state, but it came with no additional funding."

The district plans to rework some of the bus routes for the impacted schools, going back to similar routes prior to when the hour was added. Vitti said the changes will be given to parents before winter break allowing them time to make ample arrangements.