The People’s Tribune

Louisiana R-2 School Superintendent Discusses Possibility of 4-Day School Week

Last week during regular monthly session, the Louisiana R-2 School District’s Board and Superintendent discussed the possibility of moving to a 4-day week.

The school district has only begun the process of researching the idea by surveying its teachers and staff. According the Louisiana School Superintendent, Dr. Todd Smith, the board will not move further on the idea without getting the public’s input.

Smith responded some questions from the Tribune about the possible shift.

“We are not going to move to a 4-day week without getting public input,” Smith wanted to assure parents and students the district is not rushing into the decision.

“Money saving is a common misconception for the switch to a 4-day week,” he continued. “Historically, the savings are in the 5-10% range.”

When asked if the most of that percentage would come from savings on fuel and utilities, Smith agreed.

“The real appeal of the 4-day week comes in the area of recruiting teachers,” he explained. “Rural districts have a unique ability to offer a 4-day week – this is attractive to potential teachers – we can’t pay the salaries they can in the city, but we can offer a 4-day week. That perk may be enough to attract veteran teachers and attract the best of the best graduates. The pressure is further compounded by the number of schools around us that have already moved to a 4-day week.” (Clopton, Montgomery County, Van-Far, and Silex have already adopted a similar schedule)

“I feel we are double disadvantaged – we can’t pay as much as Bowling Green, and all of the districts around us are offering 4 day weeks – we keep getting further and further back in the line for attracting the best teachers,” Smith said.

According to Smith, schools switching to the 4-day week see an uptick in student and faculty attendance “which is the number one factor in increasing student learning.”

One aspect that school districts the size of Louisiana or smaller face is a shortage in teaching staff which according to Smith is very real problem.

“Many veteran teachers are reaching retirement and there are not enough graduates coming out of colleges to replace them,’ he explained. “If a small district is going to attract quality teachers, we must be competitive.”

How will it work?

Smith said that students would see slightly longer school days.

“It increases a little bit, but less than you would think. Teacher workshops, conferences, etc. are all done on Mondays, so instruction isn’t interrupted. Many holidays are on Monday already and snow days can be made up on Mondays. Families and staff can schedule appointments on Mondays and reduce absenteeism significantly.”

However, the change could present a problem for working parents who may not have a flexible career.

“Day care can be an issue for working families,” Smith answered when asked if the school had considered a solution for the potential obstacle. “We have spoken with the YMCA about running some kind of day program on Mondays. Also, in other communities, churches step in and fill that role. Usually, by the end of the first year, families have become accustomed to the routine and participation falls off sharply in day programs.” 

Smith noted how other school districts have adjusted well to the schedule change. Louisiana has the advantage of looking to those surrounding schools while exploring the idea. Clopton made the adjustment in 2018. Van-Far and Montgomery County both changed in 2020.

“Enough schools have gone before us that we have an idea of some of the challenges and solutions – you can’t just cut your hourly people by one day and expect them to stay,” Smith explained. “Food Service and transportation are the two areas where we have to get creative to remain competitive in compensation.  There are a number of proven approaches.”

The school district plans to continue gathering public input on the idea.

“Our next step is to survey families and get a feel for their concerns and how we might address them going forward,” Smith continued. “We would then hold a series of public meeting to discuss concerns. While the transition is a venture into the unknown – almost zero schools have ever gone back once they’ve made the switch.  Most families love it.”

What are your thoughts on the school switching to a four-day week?

The People’s Tribune will continue to update as more information becomes available.

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