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Some Tennessee schools adding hours, but Roane County students can rest easy

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By Damon Lawrence

Roane County students have nothing to worry about: The school system is not going to longer days or a longer school year. 
“We’re not part of that,” Director of Schools Gary Aytes said.
Eleven school districts in five states, including Tennessee, will expand their school day or year as part of a collaborative program with the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning.  
“The states will use a mix of federal and state funding to cover the cost of adding 300 hours of instruction and enrichment to the school year, and will receive technical assistance from NCTL and capacity building grants from the Ford Foundation, which has committed $3 million a year over the next three years in support of the state efforts,” a news release on the collaborative said.
The Achievement School District (Memphis) and Metro Nashville is part of the program, according to the release.
The other districts are in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.
“The leadership of these five states will deliver a major boost to a growing national movement that recognizes that schools — particularly ones serving high-poverty communities — simply need more teaching time if they are going to prepare students for a globally competitive and high-tech 21st century,” Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation, was quoted in the release.
Aytes said he doubts such a program could be implemented throughout Tennessee.   
“They would need a windfall of money in order to do that,” he said.
Roane County has a 178-day school calendar. Aytes said adding days would require the school system to spend more money on transportation and teacher pay.
“I have mixed emotions,” Aytes said of a longer school year. “I think it possibly could help, but you have to weigh the benefits with how much it would cost.”