CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Students at John Motley Morehead STEM Academy spend time every day in a new club. It's called the Match Club, and it's part of the school's longer day.
CMS added 45 minutes of class time to all elementary schools district-wide to help save the school system money on transportation costs. And while the principal at STEM Academy realizes there can be negative perceptions of a longer school day, he thought out of the box when coming up with programs for students here.
"We had to change the way we teach. We had to make it more hands on with workshops and small groups," said Principal Chris Triolo. "The extra time was built into the day. We didn't just add it to the end of the day."
Students at STEM play games designed to teach them math concepts and have grown vegetables in a school garden to learn more about science. The school started a longer day last year and the results are impressive. Student reading scores are up eight percent, according to the principal.
But a CMS study on the extended bell schedule at a single school in the 2007-2008 school year was not as positive. The study found there were very few academic benefits to a longer day and parents said the seven hour schedule made kids cranky, tired and even hungry.
Parent Susan Plaza was so upset, she started a petition against the longer schedule.
"It's like right here in black and white. It's not helping to get more time," she said.
NewsChannel 36 asked viewers their opinion about the longer day and a majority said they didn't feel the children benefited from more time in school.
One parent wrote, "The day is way too long. My daughter is starving and exhausted."
Another parent wrote, "My kids don't get home till 5p.m. - it's horrible."
And while most parents who responded were unhappy with the longer day, some believed the extra time is not such a burden.
"The schedule seems to work for us," one said.
And another parent commented, "Much longer? Please. It's 45 minutes."
One thing remains uncertain as the first quarter of the new school year is about to end: will CMS continue with the longer day?
School officials said there is no definite answer right now and that it's about providing a better education.