Parents sound off about extra school hour

Holiday Hill parents petition Vitti not to be on extra-hour list

By Scott Johnson - Reporter
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Hundreds of elementary school parents offered their opinions Tuesday night to Duval County Superintendent Nikolai Vitti about a plan to add an hour to their children's school day.

Parents at Holiday Hill Elementary have even started a petition, asking that the school not be placed on a list of schools required to add that extra hour to improve reading scores.

The state mandated the bottom 300 schools in Florida add the extra hour of reading instruction to the school day. In Duval County, 41 schools meet that criteria and Vitti and his staff added 11 more low-performing schools to that list, including Holiday Hill Elementary, which most recently earned a D grade.

The other 10 schools added by Vitti are:

  • Westview K-8
  • Hyde Park Elementary
  • Ruth Upson Elementary
  • Venetia Elementary
  • Carter Woodson Elementary
  • Garden City Elementary
  • Reynolds Lane Elementary
  • Thomas Jefferson Elementary
  • Love Grove Elementary
  • Pine Estates Elementary

Many parents at Holiday Hill said they found out about the extra hour of school when they saw Monday's story on News4Jax, and they are not happy.

They said this will affect everything from childcare plans to growing fears that the children are being overworked.

"I think it's ridiculous," said parent Wendy Bourgholtzer. "Adding an extended hour a day and not being given an extra hour to get the wiggles out. I think it's preposterous."

"I don't like it," parent Jard Nichols said. "It takes too much time from the time I can spend with my child. It takes too much time away from homework at home."

Parents like PTA president Shannon Kubishiak started a petition that they handed to district officials Tuesday night, opposing the extra-hour plan. The parents said, among other things, there will be no way to determine if the extra hour is actually helping.

Vitti showed up to explain why the plan could benefit the students.

"We have seen improvement in schools that have implemented this extra hour," Vitti said. "Why not provide the same opportunity for schools that were also fragile with this additional hour?"

And he does have some backing -- a handful of people at Tuesday's meeting said they supported the extra hour. One of those was parent Wanda Powers.

"I'm fine with it," Powers said. "I feel like anything that's going to help him learn more... I'm all for it. What's another hour?"

The school district said one reason the news is coming so late in the summer is because the state only released the list of the 300 low-performing schools in the past couple weeks, leaving the district scrambling to catch up and get the word out.

Over the next two weeks there will be a series of community meetings involving the schools on the list. For a complete list of those meetings, click here.

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