An Elementary School Tries a ‘Radical’ Idea: Staying Open 12 Hours a Day

It sounds like a dream for some working parents: school for 12 hours a day, starting bright and early at 7 a.m. and ending after dinner, at 7 p.m., all completely free.

One elementary school, Brooklyn Charter School, is experimenting with the idea as a way to tackle two problems at once. The first is a sharp decline in students in urban schools. Families are leaving city public schools around the country, including in New York City, which has led some districts to consider merging schools or even closing them.

The second is the logistical nightmare many parents face as they try to juggle jobs and child care.

Millions of families scramble to fill the gap between school dismissal, around 3 p.m., and the end of the work day, several hours later. Many never escape long waiting lists for after-school programs. Others simply cannot afford to sign up. Lower-income parents often have the hardest time finding high-quality care.

These obstacles — along with high rents and costs of living — are driving families away from the city. Brooklyn Charter School is in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a rapidly changing neighborhood where Black families have departed in droves. The school, where Black students make up three-fourths of enrollment, lost nearly 30 percent of its students during the coronavirus pandemic, shrinking from more than 230 children to fewer than 165.

The charter school has added dozens of students to its roster after extending its hours.Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

“We thought, ‘We have to do something radical,’” the principal, Joanne Hunt, said. “School hours aren’t made for working people.”

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