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Southampton opts out of NYS grant to extend school day

The Southampton school board has voted 6-1 to

The Southampton school board has voted 6-1 to reject a state grant that would have extended the school day by almost two hours, district officials said. Photo Credit: iStock

The Southampton school board has voted 6-1 to reject a $2.6 million-per-year state grant that would have extended the school day by almost two hours, district officials said.

Southampton was one of nine districts statewide -- and the only one on Long Island -- to win the grant, which would have provided the money for two years through New York State's $24 million Extended Learning Time Grant Program.

The school board, which voted on the measure Tuesday night, was considering using the money to extend hours at its elementary school or intermediate school, or both, to help narrow an "achievement gap" split along socioeconomic and racial lines in the district, which has about 1,500 students.

But the proposal proved unpopular among parents at a community forum on Oct. 1, where several said their families already struggled for free time after school, sports and homework.

School board members reached Wednesday said the experimental time-extension program did not have a proven record of success and budgeting for extra hours could have posed a challenge after the two-year grant expired.

"Not really being sure what the effectiveness would be on the achievement gap, without any data to support that, I didn't think that was something we needed to take on right now," said trustee Nick Palumbo.

Roberta Hunter, the lone trustee who voted to continue exploring the program, said Wednesday that discussions surrounding the grant were an opportunity for "self-examination" regarding the achievement gap.

"I just stood with what I felt, that it was necessary to think really out of the box for us to try to get a different result, if we're truly looking to get a different result: closing that achievement gap," she said.

But Hunter said she agreed with concerns raised by other board members over funding and the idea that the program might have posed a challenge for Southampton administrators already working on a complicated merger proposal with the neighboring Tuckahoe district.

Southampton and Tuckahoe residents will vote on the merger on Nov. 18.

Lori Tutt, a parent and outspoken opponent of the time-extension program, said Wednesday that it could have forced her two children to catch a 6:35 a.m. bus, based on the elementary-school hours the district outlined in its grant application.

"Being in school longer doesn't necessarily mean they're getting a better education," she said. "The district needs to use its time better."

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