A new website launched Tuesday by Chicago Public Schools starts with a suggested timeframe and a 2010 missive from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Titled "90 Additional Instruction Minutes ... This School Year," the new site drives home City Hall's quest to add school time as soon as possible.
"It's difficult for Chicago teachers to impart the knowledge and skills their students require when our children spend less time in the classroom than just about anywhere else in the nation," Emanuel is quoted.
According to a press release, the website is meant to be a venue for teachers, parents, students and all Chicagoans to share their ideas and provide feedback about a longer school day. It also is meant to serve as a resource for information about the longer-day program "as CPS moves toward district-wide implementation in the 2012/2013 school year."
A longer school day remains a contentious idea to the Chicago Teachers Union, which recently sued Emanuel's school board for allegedly coercing union-represented teachers into approving the extra time.
CTU president Karen Lewis has said a longer day should be implemented next year to give the system enough time to properly plan for it.
Emanuel wants to catch up Chicago schools ASAP to those across the country with longer days. So far, six schools have approved implementing a longer day during this school year.
"Unfortunately, a great deal of confusion and misinformation surround the program," writes schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard in a message to teachers on the site, "and it’s time to clear the air of rumors. There are two types of falsehoods swirling about the Pioneer Program: who is allowed to vote on waivers and what exactly are teachers waiving when they vote yes."
There's even a “misconceptions" page, mostly aimed at teachers and directly addressing concerns raised by the CTU, including "I'm waiving all of my collective bargaining rights," "I won't be able to earn overtime" and "My union won't support me if I vote yes."
The CTU says 30 schools have voted against implementing a longer school day this year. Emanuel's office says that's not true.