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Schools decrease homework

Suffolk Public Schools has decided to lessen the amount of homework allowed for elementary school age students in its homework policy.

The change means elementary students will be relieved of between 20 and 60 minutes’ worth of homework, depending on what grade they are in.

“I would like it to be no homework,” School Board member Linda Bouchard said in Thursday’s regular meeting, where the policy change was discussed. But, she added, “I appreciate you all have decided to lessen the homework.”

The board began studying the issue earlier this year, when Cathy Sturgeon, a mother of three children who attend Driver Elementary School, asked for a review of the policy.

Sturgeon said the amount of homework her children were receiving robbed the family of time together in the evening. She also believed homework engenders a negative attitude toward school, kills the love of reading and contributes to obesity, she said.

Suffolk’s former policy allowed for the largest potential amount of nightly homework for elementary students of any local school division. It permitted teachers to assign up to 30 minutes’ worth of homework for kindergarten students, up to 45 minutes for first-graders, up to 60 minutes for second-graders and up to 90 minutes for third- through fifth-graders.

At the most, other districts in the area go up to only 60 minutes even for older elementary students.

However, the new policy will allow about 10 minutes’ worth of homework times the grade level the child is in. For example, a third-grader — who previously could have been saddled with 90 minutes of homework per night — can get up to only 30 minutes under the new policy.

Kindergarteners could get up to 10 minutes of homework, while first-graders could get 10 to 20 minutes. From there, the scale goes up strictly on the grade level times 10.

The trouble with the new policy is that it’s hard for teachers to know how much time the homework is taking each student, as pointed out Thursday by Dr. LaToya Harrison, the school division’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

“We realize teachers are not sitting at the dinner table with their students,” she said.

Parents are encouraged to let their child’s teacher know if homework regularly takes longer than the time listed in the policy. The school division’s annual parent survey will also ask about the amount of homework their child receives, Harrison said.

“It will be important to monitor parents’ feedback on an ongoing basis,” Harrison said.

The new policy will be implemented beginning Jan. 2.