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Four-day school week to be studied

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

The Pulaski County School Board met this week and discussed various topics, but without a doubt the most interesting and potentially controversial subject discussed involved the implementation of a four-day school week.

Acting on a request by the Pulaski County School Board, Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers gave a presentation regarding the advantages and disadvantages of implementing a four-day school week.

Currently, there are 560 school divisions in 25 states that are using a four-day school week. More than half of these districts are located in Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma and Oregon, with half of the total school districts in Colorado now using a four-day schedule.

In most of these schools, students attend Monday through Thursday, which is considered more convenient for school athletic programs. To make up for the lost day, school instructional days are typically an hour longer than the standard school day. The Virginia State code allows for a four-day instructional week, so long as students receive 990 hours of instruction for the school year.

With this type of scheduling, there is typically one Friday a month where teachers report for professional development, faculty meetings and the like.

According to Dr. Siers, there are several advantages to a four-day school week, including improved student and school employee attendance rates. Fewer school days means less wear and tear on buses.

School systems that have adopted the four-day schedule generally save from .04% and 2.5% on their operating costs, but school administrators expect that if implemented, PCPS would save closer to the .04% mark.

In addition, some schools that have adopted this alternate schedule have shown a significant increase in student math achievement. Another advantage that was sighted is that students will have more time to pursue other interests including public service projects. It could benefit students who have part time jobs, as well.

Siers also listed some potential disadvantages to the four-day school week. Some schools, for example, experience a short-term drop in student achievement during the first and second year of implementation, but Siers explained that achievement levels generally rises again after that.

A four-day school week would also have a negative impact on finances allotted for school nutrition programs. There would also be fewer meals provided to low income students. Also along those line, child care would be an issue for some parents.

Students would also have to adapt to longer instructional days. A longer school day would impact extracurricular activities, as there would be less time for practice during daylight hours and student would miss instructional time in order to travel to away events.

Lastly, some studies indicate an increase in juvenile crimes when school is not in session.

Siers mentioned that teacher and school employee contracts would have to be altered to fit the new schedule, but said this could be done with a reasonable amount of effort.

He then asked the school board whether or not to continue pursuing the idea of a four-day school week.

Chairman of the board Tim Hurst expressed his willingness to know more about the four-day school week, saying that it could serve as a powerful incentive for teachers to come and work in the Pulaski County School System.

Board member Beckie Cox said that several issues would need to be dealt with before Pulaski’s school system adopted a four-day instructional schedule. Amongst Cox’s concerns was the burden that some parents would have finding and affording day care one more day a week. Cox also expressed concern for students who would have to leave earlier for school and arrive later from school due to the extended school day. This could potentially result in students not having any free time during daylight hours.

Cox also questioned how this would affect the Governor’s School.

Board member Dr. Paige Cash also believes that a four-day school week would positively affect teacher recruitment, but agrees that more study on the topic was necessary.

In addition to more study, board members agreed that input from the public would be useful and necessary before implementing this type of school schedule. Though not yet scheduled, a public hearing dealing with the topic of a four-day school week could come as soon as the next school board meeting.

Considering that there are many questions yet to be answered regarding the implementation of four-day school week, if it is ever implemented here in Pulaski County, it would likely occur in the 2021/2022 school year.

As it stands now, the upcoming school year is scheduled to begin Sept. 8, and end June 17. The relatively late starting time reflects the school system’s cautious approach regarding the completion of the new Pulaski County Middle School. The middle school is slated to be complete by this coming July, but school administrators wanted to ensure there was adequate time for preparation.

The Pulaski County School Board announced Friday that there will be a public meeting to discuss a possible future four-day school schedule. That meeting will be held Wednesday, March 4, at the Pulaski County High School Little Theatre. The board will hear from faculty and staff at 5 p.m. and from members of the public at 6 p.m.

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