4 Day School Weeks
I found this interesting way for schools to save money. Jackson, KY has cut the schools’ week to 4 days. Several other school districts have been doing this successfully for a while.
This is an intriguing idea. Beside lowering the transportation costs, it enables teachers to have more time for lesson planning during the day. It would enable the district to have more training sessions without incurring costs of having substitutes. The students’ test scores have improved in some of the districts doing this. I believe the reason why is that the teachers are now more effective. Just think of all the other possibilities this mean.
WILL COST LESS; SOME SAY MOVE IS RUSHED
By Peter Mathews
CENTRAL KENTUCKY BUREAU
McKEE — Across Kentucky, school districts are cutting field trips, redrawing bus routes or curtailing athletic events to cope with rising fuel costs. But no one’s making quite as dramatic a change as Jackson County.
Starting the week of Oct. 17, students will get every Friday off. Teachers will work half a day.
With the move, approved by the school board Sept. 5, Jackson becomes the fourth school district in the state to implement a four-day week, and the first to do so primarily for financial reasons.
It’s probably not going to be the last. Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, predicts the subject will be as hot a topic as year-round schools were a decade ago.
Jackson schools Superintendent Ralph Hoskins says most people have reacted favorably to the idea. But some school employees and parents question the speed with which the district is moving, and say they don’t know nearly enough about how the plan will work.
Four-day school weeks aren’t new; some rural districts in the mountains or deserts of the West have had them for 20 years or more. In Kentucky, the pioneer was Webster County, which made the change in 2003.
Three years ago, the Western Kentucky county faced a financial shortfall, looked at its tax base, which was flat at best, and considered closing an elementary school. But the school was a good performer on statewide tests, and the move wouldn’t have been popular.
Instead, Webster found a similar district in East Grand, Colo., and spent a year studying its four-day week. Administrators realized a four-day week offered more planning time and training opportunities for teachers.
Not only do teachers and students love the shorter week, but the school has saved enough money to offer full-day kindergarten instead of half-days, Webster Superintendent James Kemp said.
In its first year, Webster saved more than $150,000 in transportation, overtime and workers’ compensation costs and pay for substitute teachers. It saved an additional $167,000 by cutting a handful of jobs, eliminating some bus routes and making other cost-cutting measures.
The idea of saving 20 percent on fuel — Jackson County buys 520 gallons of diesel a day — is popular, especially in the rural West.
The Colorado Department of Education found that 80 percent to 90 percent of community members it surveyed liked the four-day week. In one town, a school board reverted to a five-day week shortly before an election, and voters replaced all of the board members.
Most districts extend the school day to make up for the lost time. Jackson will start schools 15 minutes earlier and end the day 45 minutes later.
Little comprehensive research has been done on whether children are helped or harmed academically by the change, but every school in Webster County has improved its statewide test scores since the change was made.
The free day gives teachers and students a chance to make doctor’s appointments and get cars repaired. Schools also use the free days for faculty meetings, sports events and to make up snow days.
Educators say the most prominent worry is who will care for children of working parents. It was resolved in Webster by training high-school students to provide day care, and working with churches to provide facilities. Jackson plans to do the same thing.
Two small districts — Providence Independent in Webster County and Jenkins Independent in Letcher County — started the four-day week this fall. Jenkins Superintendent John Shook said administrators wanted to give teachers more planning time, and the system is working “beautifully.”
But suspicion of the four-day week is running high in Jackson.
The school board approved the change on a 4-1 vote during a special meeting on Labor Day. Superintendent Hoskins said the meeting was held then to set a tax rate — and that taxes went down slightly.
But some parents say that until that meeting, they had heard nothing about a four-day week. The district never sent home a questionnaire or made any effort to involve the community, said Jackie David, an opponent of the change.
The president of the county education association, Fred Tilsley, said this week that he still has no details of how the plan would work.
The Kentucky Education Association is concerned about whether teachers will have adequate classroom time to teach, and whether classified employees will be hurt by the changes, a spokesman said.
“It’s hard enough to be a school bus driver; the pay’s not that great as a rule,” said Charles Main, director of communications for the KEA. “It would be a pretty big hit if they were to lose 20 percent of their income.”
Advocates and critics agree that they want the best for students, even if they aren’t sure about the change.
“If it helps children, I would be for it,” said Tina Rose, detention supervisor at Jackson’s middle school. “But when your staff is in an uproar and not for it, how’s it going to help the kids?”
Webster County Schools has information on its Web site about its experiences with the four-day week at www.webster.k12.ky.us.