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School day might go up to an hour longer

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State Superintendent for Public Instruction Scott Bean on Wednesday clarified that he proposes adding 30 minutes to one hour to average daily instruction in his recommendations to the Utah Board of Education.

Planning recommendations released Monday, which also include requiring two foreign languages for high school graduation, are scheduled to be discussed by the state school board Friday.State law mandates public school be held for at least 180 days and a minimum of 990 hours. That averages out to 5.5 hours of daily instruction for second- through 12th-graders, Bean said. Kindergartners receive an average of 2.5 hours of daily instruction; first-graders average 4.5 hours a day.

"What I'm really recommending is in elementary adding a half an hour per day and in secondary schools, one hour per day," Bean said.

Those recommendations are based on the average time for daily instruction, not the minimum time for daily instruction.

The Deseret News reported Tuesday that the proposal would add as many as 2.5 hours to daily instruction, based on the state's minimum requirements of a four-hour day, because Bean's proposal calls for "a 61/2-hour minimum instructional time for secondary students."

(Kindergarten's minimum requirements are two hours of daily instruction.)

Bean had declined to elaborate on his proposal Tuesday, preferring to wait until after the state board had a chance to discuss it. But he clarified his position Wednesday morning.

"We don't tell districts how many hours they have to go per day," Bean said. "What we have done is say if (schools) want to have a minimum day is that they have (school) for four hours to accommodate rural school districts that have to travel."

Such a four-hour minimum day would apply to Friday athletic events, for instance, in which some rural schools must travel more than 100 miles for meets.

But if schools only offered four hours of instruction daily, they never would complete the school year in 180 days, Bean said. Those schools holding a four-hour day on Fridays, for instance, usually make up the instructional time during the week.

He said the proposal would add 90 additional hours a year to elementary instruction and 180 hours a year to secondary school instruction.

The planning recommendations are aimed at helping students keep up with increased educational demands.

Additional time in kindergarten and first grade could be used to improve language arts, reading and numeric skills. Second- through sixth-graders could learn an international language and increase fine arts instruction.

Seventh- and eighth-graders could use the time for international language instruction, career exploration, life skills and supervised study sessions.

High school students could meet additional graduation requirements, including competency in three international languages (English being one of them), two applied technology courses and two responsible healthy lifestyles courses in addition to the basics.

The recommendations carry a $112 million annual price tag, plus $118.5 million for 11 proposed applied technology training institutions, which would incur $13.7 million in annual operation and maintenance costs.

ATCs "established under the State Board of Education" would be in Salt Lake City, south Salt Lake County, Utah County, Price, Moab, Cedar City and Nephi or Delta. Programs could be established in rural high schools for outreach purposes.