While all the talk about the McKinley School of late has been about the new building, this week school officials were lauding what is sure to immediately change what is going on inside the four walls.
Superintendent Paul Dakin said the McKinley School got a big break in landing a very competitive Extended Learning Time grant from the state that will allow the school to have a longer day and a longer school year.
Starting this year, the McKinley will start the school year five days earlier than the rest of the district, on Aug. 21st for grades 1-5, and will also extend the school day, going from 8 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
The $600,000 per year grant was very competitive, with only two given out statewide. As Revere has two ELT grants already at the Whelan School and the Garfield Middle, many didn’t figure the City had much of a chance.
“It was a coup to get this and it’s a credit to the teachers for going along with it,” said Dakin. “When you have two of the 22 ELT grants already, and they’re only adding two more statewide, you wonder if they would give you another. Nevertheless, we came up with some ideas and the staff listened and bought into it. What put us over the edge was bringing the kids in earlier in the year. It will be the first ELT in an urban district to go for a longer school year. Everyone has a longer school day, but no one has a longer school year.”
One of the major pieces that fell into place was the cooperation of the McKinley School teachers, who Dakin praised.
While the ELT grant will increase classroom time by 25 percent this coming year, teachers will only be compensated with an 18 percent pay increase.
“This was a hard sell for the teachers and I have to give them and the teacher’s union credit,” he said. “They bought into this idea of innovation that other districts have had trouble embracing. The teachers are paid for the extra time, but not really at the same rate.”
Dakin said that the ELT will help students at the McKinley start earlier in the year and reduce the typical “summer regression” that most kids go through. He also said it would give teachers more time to work on lessons in the classroom.
“This is $2 million coming into the district to give kids more time in the classroom and it doesn’t cost the City a thing,” he said.
One logistical problem that has been brought up is the possibility of extremely hot classrooms, as the 110-year-old McKinley School does not have air conditioning, it’s windows cannot open in many cases and the electrical system cannot support window air conditioning units. Those things, potentially, could make for an uncomfortable start to the school year.
“That has come up in discussions about this,” he said. “We have done a lot of work on the air exchange system in there so the air quality is much better, but it does have the potential to be hot. We have questioned whether we should just live with it for three years, and after that, we won’t have an issue with a new building. We’re going to have to think and act creatively on that part of this.”
Though grades 1-5 will start earlier, the kindergarten at McKinley will start on Aug. 28th, and its school day will remain from 8 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.