Some questions answered, more remain for GISD as four-day week concept gets April 10 town hall

The possibility of a four-day school week for Gladewater ISD will remain undecided for weeks to come, and the district’s trustees listened more than they spoke during a March 25 presentation on the idea.
While the school’s elected officials ponder the latest information presented by members of the District Educational Improvement Committee, a public town hall meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, in the Gladewater Middle School Cafeteria.
That session is open to anyone in the community who wants to learn more about the options or to ask questions, according to DEIC co-chairs Andy Reynolds and Opal Smith, especially with so many undecideds still in the ether.
The two GISD employees presented a portion of the DEI committee’s research for trustee consideration last month – it’s available for download here.
The documentation includes a list of East Texas districts that have switched a four-day schedule along with findings from those schools, GISD survey results on the topic and breakdowns of survey data. There are also questions and comments submitted during the survey process plus three draft calendars – one for a 5-day 2024-2025 school year, one featuring a schedule with Mondays off and one that considers a schedule with no Friday instruction.
According to Reynolds, smaller districts have begun making the change, specifically to address their teacher shortages and to attract more candidates.
From the DEIC’s findings, East Texas four-day schools report Pros on recruitment and retention of staff, increased staff morale, decreased discipline referrals, decreases in student and staff absences, increased professional development time and some financial savings.
According to the Cons, younger students have greater challenges with a short week along with shared staff concerns, a compressed timeline and no room for waste instruction time, challenges with food service availability for students and possible concerns with after-school activities.
“Probably the biggest area of ‘pro’ that we’ve heard from a lot of districts is recruitment of staff as well as staff retention,” Reynolds said, “which is a big deal given the current state of education.”
A four-day schedule also gives staffers a weekday to manage their own appointments and responsibilities without taking off, he noted, and it enables faculty to invest time in professional development without missing classes.
Both the DEIC representatives and the trustees expressed concerns about the care some students will lose when they’re out of school one more day in a week.
“The love and nurturing they have on the fifth day is going to be absent to them,” school board member Garth Cockerell said. “Something is tugging at me there about those kids being away from the school, away from people who care about them, who love them, who show them a different lifestyle and all. That keeps coming back to me. I really don’t know how to get around that.”
According to Smith, “We also discussed having an intervention day on that day off. A lot of those students might be coming anyway,” she said.
Logistically, there are still plenty of questions remaining, such as how extracurriculars will be impacted along with the students and staffers who participate in them.
With the issue in limbo until trustees make a final call, the actual structure of the school day is unset. Generally, the remaining four days will be longer by 40 minutes each, and there’s a rough consensus school would start 20 minutes earlier than it does now and end 20 minutes later, affecting various processes (transportation, food service, etc.) relatively.
“I think there’s a going to be a lot of issues whatever you do,” Reynolds said.
Do or don’t, he added, there will be positive and negative reactions and complications from staff.
“I think we need to be thinking ahead, too,” board president Ross Morgan said. “Regardless of which decision we make, what if everybody goes to this? We’re competing for teachers in a market where everybody can go to four-days. There are other things we need to be looking at in order to get ahead in that game.”
Cockerell noted his appreciation for all the effort that’s been put into research the options.
“We are willing,” he said, “we just need information to make the best decision.”

– By James Draper

Facebook Comments