Loudoun County elementary school students will attend school for 20 minutes more each day this year, for a total of six hours and 45 minutes.
Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III has said students need the extra classroom time so they can prepare for standardized tests and still have time for such activities as music, art and physical education.
Fifth-graders, for example, will begin taking Spanish classes this year, a continuation of a popular program offered in lower grades. Fifth-graders also take several Standards of Learning exams and meet with county sheriff's deputies as part of the DARE anti-drug program.
The day will be lengthened by adding 10 minutes at the beginning of the day and 10 minutes at the end.
School system officials say the change also will reduce late arrivals by giving bus drivers more time between elementary and secondary school runs. They say Loudoun buses previously had one hour to get students to schools, compared with one hour and 45 minutes in Fairfax County and two hours in Prince William County.
Some teachers are not happy about the change, saying that they are concerned the extra time will be used for pilot programs and that a longer school day should be tied to salary increases. Some also say that young children already find the day tiring and cannot handle more.
Middle and high school students already attend school for six hours 48 minutes each day.
To see the bell schedule for all county public schools, visit www.loudoun.k12.va.us/news/2004-2005/may/Elementary_Instructional_Day_Lengthened.htm.