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Restructuring/Extending the School Day

ELO Restructuring / Extending School Day Banner


Re-envisioning the traditional school day may allow educators to meet the needs of learners impacted by COVID by keeping learning constant and making time the variable. The strategies offered on this page are intended to provide a starting point for educators in need of ideas to expand learning time.

Best Practices

When planning to restructure or extend the school day, school and district leaders should consider best practices from research.

Increasing the number of hours of instruction students receive during the school day

  • ...(either during nonacademic class periods or by extending the official school day) can be effective for all age groups, types of students, and subject matter.

Extended learning programs are most effective when students are instructed in small groups of 10-15.

Programs that offer 44 to 100 hours of additional instruction have been shown to have an impact on student learning.

Offer time for teachers to collaborate across grade levels

  • Educators might need to realign their instructional focus in spring, summer, and fall 2021, and as necessary beyond, to help get students back on track.

In-school Acceleration Strategies

Instructional leaders can focus on accelerating student learning rather than on remediation.

  • Use high-quality assessments, such as diagnostic and formative tools, that provide timely information to help educators know where to focus learning for particular students. Educators should differentiate instruction without tracking students or limiting the depth and quality of instruction they receive.
  • Support educators in using approaches to acceleration that prioritize engaging students and peer collaboration, including through project-based learning and opportunities for students to support each other in their learning.

Elementary Strategies

Strategies for elementary students should account for their unique learning needs.

  • Create a soft start to the day such as offering tutoring.
  • Consider creating innovative names for enrichment programs outside of the school day such as “School Name University”.
  • Expand traditional learning schedules to include “double dosing” in core subjects to provide more learning time for students.
  • Before or after school guided study halls can be created where students can receive additional support from instructors.
  • For the youngest learners try to keep a ratio of 15 minutes of focus time to 5 minutes of rest or play.

Secondary Strategies

  • Secondary schools may utilize a zero hour or additional period at the end of the day to enable additional learning time.
  • Offer and subsidize school programming outside of instructional hours (e.g., before/after) across range of topics (academic, social emotional, athletic, etc.) to provide students with additional structured learning environments.
  • For secondary learners try to keep a ratio of 30 minutes of focus time with 5 minutes for a cognitive break.


  • Doubling Recess: This link contains an article from Education Week on the mental and physical benefits of increasing recess for your youngest learners.
  • How Schools Can Help Kids Heal After A Year of Crisis and Uncertainty Article: This link contains an article from National Public Radio on how educators can support students in re-engaging with in person learning after the worst of the pandemic.
  • Restarting and Reinventing School: This link contains a policy report from the Learning Policy Institute that offers ten priorities to consider for restarting and reinventing school during COVID-19
  • Roadmap To Reopening: This link contains a policy report from the US Department of Education that offers three key ideas (Creating Safe and Healthy Learning Environments, Addressing Lost Instructional Time and Addressing Resource Inequities) for educators to consider when reopening schools.