Chicagoans have heard a great deal about Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to extend the day for Chicago Public School kids.
In Austin, three schools have already agreed to lengthen the day this year by 90 minutes.
But some West Side residents say there hasn’t been enough public discussion on the topic, and residents, parents and students have been left out of the conversation.
Dwayne Truss, a member of the South Austin Community Coalition, and Carol Johnson, a West Side community organizer, have planned a public education town hall meeting for this Monday, Sept. 26 at Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave., from 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. AustinTalks is sponsoring the meeting, and John W. Fountain III, an Austin resident and columnist for AustinTalks, will moderate.
At the meeting, community members will be invited to voice their concerns and opinions on the issue. They will also be able to complete a survey that asks if they support extending the school day and what they think schools should do with the additional 90 minutes.
Truss will present the information gathered from the surveys to school officials at the next Chicago Board of Education meeting Sept. 28. CPS has also set up a website to take comments from the public about how schools should use the 90 minutes.
The meeting is a way for The West Side to network and share ideas, and to help craft the most effective plan for extending the school day, Truss said. Truss has also sent invitations to CPS, the Chicago Teachers Union and other community organizations to participate in the discussion.
“I’m not personally against (extending the school day),” Truss said. “But we need to make sure we ask questions and analyze this thing before we do it.”
Austin’s Howe School of Excellence, 720 N. Lorel Ave., Nash Elementary School, 4837 W. Erie St. and Genevieve Melody Elementary, 412 S. Keeler Ave., are three of nine schools that already approved longer days as of Sept. 17, AustinTalks reported.
Cassandra Davis, 47, a 28th Ward resident, said she thinks extending the school day is a good idea, and Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th Ward, should be more instrumental in making that happen for his ward, which encompasses part of Austin.
Ald. Ervin should speak out more about extending the school day, because “then more people will listen,” Davis said at a recent job fair in East Garfield Park the alderman hosted.
“If you have kids that are willing to learn and willing to stay, then I think they should be able to stay,” she said.
Whitney Washington, 23, also attended the job fair. She said lengthening school would benefit kids on the West Side and other parts of the city, who don’t have access to after school activities.
“There are not too many activities to do after school anymore because a lot of stuff is being cut,” Washington said. “There are not as many after school programs. So if they are still in school, be my guest.”
William Siegmund, who challenged in February’s aldermanic election, also thinks the alderman should be more vocal on the school-day issue.
“Education is vital on the West Side,” Siegmund said.
Ervin could not be reached for comment by deadline.
Truss said that education officials and the mayor have rushed to approve the longer school days.
“What’s the rush?” he said. “Let’s focus where this will be effective — let’s not rush to score political points.”
This issue has become “a media battle” for schools and politicians with the students caught in between, Truss said.
“Nobody is saying, ‘Let’s sit down and have a discussion.’”
For more details on the meeting, contact Truss at (773) 879-5216.