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Community R-VI holds public session to discuss possible switch to four-day weeks

Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Counselor Jennifer Gilman talks to the board.

Counselor Jennifer Gilman talks to the board.

Several Community R-VI staff, administrators, and patrons in the district packed the library last Wednesday night for an open discussion time to talk about a possible switch to a four-day school week in the district.
Community R-VI Superintendent Cheryl Mack said a survey was sent out to see what interest there might be in a four-day week, which led to the session being held to discuss it further.
“This is why we did the first survey because if there was absolutely no interest, then we weren’t going to spend any more time on it,” Mack said during the  session.
Mack said she thought the meeting was “very positive” with the information that was shared.
“We had a lot of questions when we first started the investigation and a lot of the same questions the pubic and parents had also,” she said.
A committee that featured teachers, the school counselor, and administrators went on a fact-finding mission prior to the meeting to present findings to local patrons.
A four-day week would potentially result in about 153 full days a year with just one early release day on the final day of school. The 1,105.7 hours would keep the district compliant with DESE.
District students would not have school on Mondays and the other four days would be about 35 minutes longer. There was not a detailed discussion on whether the 35 minutes would be added on at the end of the day or split up for the beginning and the end of each school day.
Mondays are chosen as off days due to the amount of national holidays falling on that day of the week.
A new format would also eliminate all half days. During the last school year, the students had three half days. There are just two scheduled this school year.
This format is currently being used at nearby Montgomery County and Harrisburg school districts.
Some positives mentioned at the two districts includes a longer block time for math class, schedules not interrupted by specials, an expanded Study Hall time to help kids do work at the end of the day or be used for assemblies, etc.
Montgomery County teachers shared data that they have more instructional time in the four-day format than with the one less day.
Those two districts also saw a decrease of absences among at-risk kids.
As for younger kids in grades like Kindergarten, the research showed that kids adjusted to the longer times. Districts helped by adding a snack time and rest time as needed.
In regards to test scores, Montgomery County reports  a small increase in students doing better. Principal Bob Curtis even mentioned a scare tactic where teachers wore shirts saying they would see students on Monday, this giving them the understanding that five day weeks would come back if the students didn’t perform better. Students used this as motivation to try harder on their test.
In regards to dual credit courses, schools like Central Methodist University are already working with Montgomery County to accommodate them for not having school on Monday.
Child care issues for Mondays were also discussed. The district might have to look at providing a child care option, though the two other districts said local churches have stepped up but with limited attendance. This means district residents were finding ways to make Mondays work for them.
Vo-Tech students would still go five days a week. They would catch a school bus at Community R-VI and be transported like normal.
In regards to extra-curriculars, many Junior High teams would practice later to accommodate their parents getting them to practice.
When it comes to lesson planning, Montgomery County had time in the summer to help teachers learn how to set their plans up to make the best use of their time.
Superintendent Mack said two big reasons for a potential shift to a four-day would be for recruitment and retainment.
The move could make the district more marketable to teachers who are traveling far distances.
She also said it would help in hiring the best educators. She noted that there have been times the district has only received three to five applications but only one teacher was certified in the needed area.
There is also a cost savings measure. Harrisburg reported a $75,000 cut in expenses.
Overall, Montgomery County juniors and seniors said they would hate to switch back to the five-day schedule.
There are some concerns expressed with a possible switch to a four-day schedule.
Bus drivers would find there schedules cut from five days a week to four days. This might result in the district contracting out bus drivers like food workers are contracted through Opaa. They too would likely be affected.
Another concern relates to the district’s challenge of finding substitute teachers. Currently, many teachers are using their planning periods to cover other classes when no substitute is available for a teacher who is out of school.
One patron expressed concerns that students would struggle with the switch as most jobs are five days a week as they get older. That was rebutted with examples like ever changing college schedules, working through the summer, etc.
Superintendent Mack said a second public session will be scheduled in the future.
Board Meeting
During their regularly scheduled board meeting, the Community R-VI School Board accepted the resignation of Jamie Woodhurst, pre-school instructor.
During the Executive Session at the end of the evening, the board filled that spot by hiring Amber Stumpe, pending a successful completion of the Early Childhood Certificate of the State of Missouri for the remainder of the school year.
Presentations
Three students from the 2nd grade class and Mrs. Ebers, 2nd   grade teacher, demonstrated how they were able to do lessons on tablets in the classroom using the handouts application.
Mrs. Gilman, secondary counselor, shared how the 8th grade class participated in the Reality Store sponsored by the Mexico Middle School and the Mexico Area Chamber of Commerce. The Reality Store is a program that teaches life skills.
Karissa Graves and Courtney Bertels gave an update on the National Convention. The Community R-VI FFA Chapter received the 3-Star National Chapter Award and placed eighth in Meats as well as individual awards.
Board member Linda Gastler congratulated the FFA members. Rhonda Curtis complimented the 8th graders who participated in the Reality Store. Superintendent Mack extended a thank you to the Stuckenschneider Family for the Chris Stuckenschneider Scholarship.
Miscellaneous
The board voted to extend the house lease with Head Start.
Snow Routes have been completed and posted both on the Community R-VI website and were sent home in “The Communicator.”
Superintendent Mack attended the Northeast Superintendent’s Meeting and was informed that the A+ funding is being restored.
Elementary Principal Tammy Angel reported that attendance was at 96% in the Elementary. Angel stated that there are only three more parents who need to have a conference with their student’s teacher to be at 100% participation for parent teacher conferences. Angel also complimented all who helped and participated with Fan Fest. She stated her elementary students had a lot of fun.
Secondary Principal Bob Curtis reported that 108 of 154 students were either on the Principal’s list or on A or B Honor Roll for the first quarter. Curtis shared that late arrivals have decreased as well as student absences.
Curtis also shared that Monsanto will be here on December 5 to present a check for $10,000 between ball games.