Georgia’s Polk School District is considering some alternative school calendars for the 2010-2011 school year. This school district includes the cities of Cedartown and Rockmart in Polk County, Georgia. Because of educational budget cuts that occurred for the 2009-2010 term and further expected cuts for the 2010-2011 term, the school board is looking into ways to cut some of their costs. The Georgia General Assembly has passed into law House Bill 193. It requires schools to provide a certain number of hours of instruction for all students. However, it has given local school districts the flexibility to decide how many days those hours are divided into.
Surveys have been sent home to parents this first week back to school after the Christmas break. The survey gives information about a possibility the school board is considering. This possible option is to change to a four day a week school calendar. It contains information describing how this calendar would work. It also addressed possible questions that parents might have concerning this option. It says that this is not an actual vote to accept this option or not. The school board wants to collect input from parents to know their thoughts about implementing a four day week for schools.
Changes Already in Place for Polk School District
The school day has been lengthened by 30 minutes for the 2009-2010 term to put in what is called Needs Based Instruction. This is a class period that provides, based on each student’s individual need, either remediation or acceleration in the areas of reading and math. The students go to different classrooms where each teacher in the school has been set up to provide the needed extra help or more in depth lessons, based on whatever the students in each particular group needs.
An Option of a Four Day Week School Calendar
The four day school calendar option works much like a four day week works in the workplace. Instead of the regular 6 to 7 hours of instructional time each day in a five day week, the students would attend classes 7 ½ to 8 hours for four days each week. It could be run either Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday and each weekend would be a three day weekend.
The information provided to parents in the survey gave a possibility of saving up to 20% on normal expenditures. The four day week would allow the schools to shut down the school buildings as if it were holiday weekends each week. This would include leaving the heat and air conditioning off, turning off water to the bathrooms and elsewhere, and leaving the power off. That would mean three days of lowered usage instead of only two each week. Not only would it save on less use of the utilities at each school, there would be other savings as well. The savings would include fuel for running the buses. Less cafeteria food would be used since there would only be four days of breakfasts and lunches instead of five. Substitute teachers would not be needed on the extra day off.
The four day week calendar option would drop the number of days the students attend for the year from 180 to 168 days. An example was provided to parents that showed one possible way the school day would be scheduled. Where currently, the school day starts for students at 8:05 am each day; the example has them starting at 7:45 am. Another way it could be set up is for the start time to stay the same and move the end time from 3:15 pm to 3:35 for elementary school students, 3:20 to 3:40 for middle school and from 3:30 to 3:50 for high school.
Other Benefits of a School Calendar using Four Days a Week
There are several other benefits to be gained by switching to a four day a week school calendar. The extra day out of school gives families more time to spend together. It leaves open a weekday for people to handle personal business such as doctor or dentist appointments. Right now extra curricular activities like sports, band and clubs are handled during the school day or in the evenings. This either takes away from and interrupts instructional time given to students, or causes students to have less time in the evenings for family and homework. The four day school calendar would give time on the day off for those activities to be conducted. That way there are less interruptions of instructional time and the evenings are left to the families.
What Problems Could Come From a Four Day a Week Calendar?
On the down side, the longer days could lead to more fatigue and tiredness for both the students and the teachers, especially the younger children in the lower grades. Many children who are bus riders already have to be ready to catch their bus before 7:00 am. Some even have to be out to their bus stops at 6:30 or 6:45 am. The earlier start time would mean they were having to get to their stops even earlier than that. This would be even more likely to cause fatigue.
Parents would have to come up with the extra money to pay for child care to cover the additional day off. This would stretch budgets that are already stressed to the maximum point of no return. Many parents have enough trouble making ends meet in this economy as it is. The majority of them would most likely not be able to make it through. That additional day off could also lead to more behavior problems for some children because they would have too much free time on their hands that used to be filled by the school day.
Teacher pay rates most likely would not be affected by the change. On the other hand, other system employees, like the bus drivers and cafeteria workers could see cuts in their pay because of the school calendar having less days. With the shape the economy is already in, that could hurt a lot of people.
The questionnaire part of the survey asked if parents would approve or disapprove of the four day week school calendar and what reasons they had for approving or disapproving of this option. As with most decisions, there are good things and bad things about this idea. Once the benefits and difficulties are weighed side by side it will be up to each parent to decide whether those benefits outweigh the difficulties. That will be the determining factor as to whether a four day a week school calendar would be a good option for Polk School District to implement.
Polk School District, Four Day Week School Calendar Survey