Meeting planned for March to gain input on possible move to 4-day school week

A public meeting will be held sometime in March to gain input from citizens on the idea of Pulaski County Schools adopting a four-day instructional week.

The idea of a four-day week was discussed at length Tuesday during the School Board’s regular meeting for February.

School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers presented a report stemming from research done on the four-day week – research which School Board Chairman Tim Hurst had earlier requested.

Siers presented an overview of the four-day week, as well as known advantages and disadvantages of the schedule.

Siers said currently 560 school divisions in 25 states have at least one school district using a four-day school week.

Most schools with a four-day week schedule go to school Monday – Thursday, however, some have elected to go Tuesday – Friday, which Siers said is thought to be a better setup since most athletic teams don’t play on Mondays.

School days are typically about an hour longer than those in a five-day week.

Siers added there is typically one Friday or Monday each month during which teachers report for professional development, faculty meetings, etc.

He noted that four-day weeks have “really taken off” out west, however, the closest four-day week school divisions to Pulaski County are found in Kentucky and Georgia.

Advantages

Siers listed advantages of the four-day week as

  • Improved student and employee attendance rates.
  • Parents and teachers can schedule appointments for days school is not in session.
  • It is a strong selling point for teacher recruitment and retention.
  • Sets aside one day per month for teachers to work on issues and initiatives.
  • Provides a better work-life balance for teachers.
  • Puts less wear and tear on buses.
  • Provides cost savings for the school system. However, Siers said no one is looking to sell the four-day schedule as a cost savings measure. He said school systems have saved between .04 percent and 2.5 percent with the four-day schedule, which in Pulaski County would range from $200,000 to $1.25 million of the school board’s budget. Siers said school officials believe Pulaski County might see savings in the lower range, if that.
  • Some studies have shown a significant increase in student math achievement.
  • Students have more time to pursue outside interests, public service projects for high school students can be scheduled during the off day, and it benefits students who are employed.

Disadvantages

  • Siers said some schools experienced a short-term drop in student achievement during the first and second years of implementation – but that usually evens out after the first two years.
  • Lack of childcare options for younger students on the days that school is not in session.
  • Negative financial impact on school nutrition programs.
  • Fewer meals provided each week to low-income students.
  • Some studies indicate an increase in neighborhood juvenile crime on days when school is not in session.
  • Time needed to adapt to the longer instructional days.
  • Impact on extra-curricular activities with less time for practices during daylight hours and missing instructional time to travel to away events.

Beckie Cox, Massie District board member said she agreed with moving forward with studying the four-day week but noted there are still a number of questions that school officials don’t have answers for yet.

She asked how a four-day schedule would impact the Southwest Virginia Governor’s School, which operates on a five-day schedule. She wondered about when the school day would start and end, and how busing would work since some kids, she said, already board buses some days before daylight and might not get home until dark.

Cox also expressed concern about the issue of childcare on the day of the week school is out.

Cox said her questions shouldn’t be viewed as opposition to the four-day schedule, but that there is just a lot to look at.

Siers asked for board direction on the idea, and Hurst said he would like to move forward.

“We’re in a situation now in which it is difficult to recruit and retain teachers. A four-day instructional week is a huge selling point for new teachers. At the very least I think we need to look more into this,” Hurst said.

“We have to consider all these things – childcare and others – all are definite concerns, but they are making it work in many school divisions all across the country,” Hurst said.

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot