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Syracuse schools celebrate first day back by highlighting new I-Zone schools

All the public schools in Onondaga County are now open for the new school year. The Syracuse City School District was one of the last ones to open its doors Thursday morning. And school officials used the occasion of the first day of school to show off one of the new I-Zone Schools in the district.

Second graders at Syracuse's Frazer School welcomed some high-profile, first-day-of-school visitors, Mayor Stephanie Miner and Superintendent Sharon Contreras. Frazer is one of seven low-achieving schools the district hopes gets a boost from a $31.5 million grant that will allow new and radical solutions to the persistent problems that have traditionally held students back.

Contreras says the changes are dramatic. "I think it's huge to add 180 hours to student learning; 14 additional days in professional learning. And the teachers have an extra hour in professional development per day," she said.

Miner says resorting to a program like this shouldn't be seen as a desperate move.

"This is saying that we are going to take a leadership position. We're going be on the forefront of solving this problem. And we're doing it here and now with the children in these seven schools," said the mayor.

The Syracuse schools in the I-Zone have some of the lowest test scores in the state and are on the city's west side.  The program is scheduled to be expanded to five other schools in other parts of the district next year.