COTTONDALE, Fla. (WMBB) — Jackson County school officials are hoping to implement a new after-school program in their district to keep students on track.

Between Hurricane Michael and virtual learning due to the pandemic, students are falling behind.

Potentially beginning as soon as next week, Cottondale Elementary students could see an extended school day.

“Right now, we’re hopefully looking at two days a week extending the school day where all kids could stay from like 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.,” Jackson County Superintendent, Steve Benton said.

Cottondale Elementary staff sent out a survey earlier this week asking parents if they would be interested in the extra class time. Dozens have already responded with a “Yes.”

“So when she told me this morning we had 67, I was well please with that” Benton said. “Especially with a two-day survey. I feel like this will be a growing number there.”

Cottondale Elementary school principal, Jessica Craven, said Hurricane Michael and COVID-19 have caused gaps in their students’ education. She said she is hopeful this program will help close some of those gaps.

“We know that there is a huge need in our district to be able to capture these students and to shore up that missed instruction and to give them some extra time on their skills,” Craven said. “So I am very, very excited that Cottondale Elementary was chosen to go ahead and begin this program.”

The district’s original plan was to have students attend an optional Saturday school to help them make up for the lost time. However, after his first principal’s meeting, Benton determined there was not enough interest in sending kids to school on a Saturday.

Cottondale Elementary will be the first school to start the new program. Benton said if it is successful, they will look at starting it in smaller schools in the district.