CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — “I don’t like it,” Jason Lemmon, a dad picking his kid up from South Side Elementary School, said.
He wasn’t the only parent to say that, as they took in the news that their child’s school day could be extended by almost an hour.
Teachers in Champaign are considering going on strike. They have an authorization vote scheduled for next week. One contentious part of their negotiations is about a proposal to extend the school day for elementary school students.
They say they’re doing this because of a recent law change and they say they’re going to make sure they work out the logistics with administrators, teachers and parents.
“They’re not giving the teachers more time off and it’s really going to dig more into their planning and prep time and they’re already very limited in that already and they really don’t even get that now so I don’t think it’s going to be much of a benefit,” Rebekah Wilson, a mom picking her kid up from South Side Elementary School, said.
Some parents waiting to pick up their kids from south side elementary school were unhappy with a recent announcement from Champaign School District.
“Its just going to create a whole lot more stress, I think, for the people that are actually working, especially the teachers,” Lemmon said.
The board has proposed adding 50 extra minutes to the elementary school day. It would start in the 2023-2024 school year. In a statement, they say this would allow extra time for lunch and recess, as well as increasing student learning time by 30 minutes, which parents say can be hard on younger students.
“Their day is already so crammed that this 30 minutes isn’t going to mean much unless there’s more available time for them to actually relax in between all the transitions of learning,” Wilson said.
“He’ll be a whole lot more tired because he’s only seven years old,” Lemmon said.
The board of education says the plan to add this extra time is because of a new law called “Right to Play Law.” Governor Pritzker signed it this summer. It requires Illinois students in grades K-5 to have 30 minutes of recess.
“My son’s mom is actually a teacher so that just means she’ll have to work an extra hour as well at least so it’ll just be harder on all of us,” Lemmon said.
“They’re past their limits,” Wilson said. “We can’t even find subs to actually take over the classrooms and so they’re stressed already this year and I think what we’ve learned so far is that we don’t know what Covid is going to be like next year and there could be stress next year too. And now you’re asking for even more time on their contract. I think it’s just not the right time.”
The union’s strike authorization vote is on Wednesday. That vote is the first part of the process. The union would need to go through other legal steps before teachers actually walk out.
WCIA called other school districts to hear how they are working in the “Right to Play Law.” Monticello superintendent said they have continued to do a normal schedule for their elementary schools. He said the kids have 30 minutes of recess so they did not have to extend days. Elementary students go to school for 6.5 hours of the day.
Meanwhile, in Mahomet the superintendent said they also already provide their kids with 30 minutes of recess so they did not have to adjust the regular school day hours. We reached out to several other school districts and are just waiting to hear back.