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Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer) testifies during today’s Senate voting session.

 TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer, Hunterdon) has reintroduced her bill, S544, to allow New Jersey to begin exploring and planning for an extended school day and school year.  Her bill, she says, is an important first step for a successful transition to a longer school day and year for our schools, students, families, teachers, and communities.

 “I’ve long believed that we need to bring New Jersey’s education system into the 21st century by extending the school day and school year,” said Senator Turner.  “Our students would fare better academically, and it is more cost effective for parents who must now pay for after school care or require their children to be latchkey when after school care is unaffordable.  Parents will feel more comfortable knowing their children are supervised and safe, and learning in our classrooms would be greatly enhanced, with teachers spending less time re-teaching due to summer learning loss.”

 The bill, first introduced in 2011, establishes an extended school day and school year study commission that would study the effects of a longer school day and school year on advancing student achievement, enhancing the overall school learning environment and increasing student enrichment opportunities and educational offerings.  The commission would also examine any extended school day and school year schedules utilized in other states to develop recommendations on how best to proceed for New Jersey’s schools.

 Senator Turner said that extending learning time is not as simple as the Governor implies and that a number of factors need to be considered and explored first to ensure that extending our school day and school year is a success.

 “We must think about how to continue fitting in students’ extra-curricular activities and sports and out-of-school programs that are also important for their development,” said Senator Turner.  “We need to think about how long our school day and year will be extended and whether we can properly coordinate bussing and school schedules.  Children will be coming home from school later, but does that also mean that school buses will be on the road during rush hour traffic?”

 “Some students have after-school work responsibilities,” continued Senator Turner, “and many of our school facilities are antiquated, while others are falling apart.  If we are extending the school year into the summer, we’ll need to provide air conditioning to ensure the classroom environment is conducive to learning.  Whatever approach we take to address these and other challenges, we must also consider the cost and ensure that already over-burdened property taxpayers will not be saddled with additional costs.”

 The commission established under the terms of the bill will be made up of education stakeholders, including parents, administrators, school business officials, principals and supervisors, school boards, and teachers, in addition to legislative appointees and the Commissioner of Education.  Senator Turner will be asking to have a student representative included.

 “This is much too important of an issue to implement without having the input of those who understand best the considerations that must be made to make extended learning a success,” said Senator Turner.

 The bill is pending in the Senate Education Committee.