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It’s back to school today for students at four high schools and five middle schools in Houston. These students won’t only have an extra five days tacked on to their school year compared to their peers who start next Monday — they’ll also have a school day that lasts from 7:45 am to 4:45 pm Monday through Thursday, and from 7:45 am to 3:15 pm on Fridays.

Sounds like the winning formula of many charter schools, but these are all traditional public schools. They’ve just been targeted to undergo extensive reforms through Apollo 20, a new program of the Houston Independent School District. The program’s name was initially inspired by Apollo 13′s famous “Houston, we have a problem,” although Superintendent Terry Grier prefers to frame it as “Houston, we have an opportunity.”

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