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New London — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said during a brief tour of Winthrop Magnet Elementary School Tuesday that the city's inclusion in a national program to extend the school day is "an exciting time for New London."
Malloy and state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were following up on Monday's announcement that 3,184 children in New London, Meriden and East Hartford next year will have 300 more hours of learning time added to their school year. The initiative is funded by the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning.
New London Board of Education members, school officials and the district's special master, Steven Adamowski, also were present.
As part of the Time for Innovation Matters in Education Collaborative, school districts in five states — Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Colorado — will benefit from the program.
"This is very aggressive, which means it's very good. This should be viewed as an exciting time for New London," Malloy said.
In New London, the extra time won't necessarily come after school; it may come on weekends and during the summer.
Originally, an extended-day pilot program was supposed to be introduced at both Winthrop and Jennings elementary schools, with a possible extension into Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, in February. But the district's Chief Academic Officer Katherine Ericson said Tuesday that the pilot program will be implemented in January and only at Bennie Dover.
Pending approval of New London's participation by the TIME Collaborative and the state, the city's three elementary schools — Winthrop, Jennings and Nathan Hale — and the middle school will begin full implementation of the extended day in the fall of 2013.
"We see expanded learning time as an extension and an opportunity that we want to create through the year to provide opportunities for success," Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer said.
"You should never mistake literacy for smarts, and we want to maximize literacy and show people how smart our kids really are," he said.
The trick to sustaining the program beyond its initial three years of funding is to "think outside the box," Malloy said.
"The path forward is how to spend our education funds wisely," he said. "Whatever we need to do to prevail. ... A part of this is to move us beyond the idea that everything we need requires new money."
Funding for the program in New London came in the form of an $809,000 Alliance District grant, of which $120,000 will be dedicated to extended learning time. Adamowski, the special master, called the funding "a gift" to the district.
According to a press release from the National Center on Time & Learning and the Ford Foundation, the program will depend on "a mix of state and federal funding" beyond its first three years. States will receive technical assistance from NCTL and capacity-building grants from the Ford Foundation, which has committed $3 million a year during the next three years to support state efforts across the country, the press release said.
Malloy said school districts could use existing resources creatively, such as by staggering teachers' schedules.
"Not everyone needs to arrive to school at the same time. People can work different shifts, as long as it ends up being the same number of people in the building throughout the day," Malloy said.