Four-day school week up for discussion again
Parents and school board will meet to discuss pros and cons together
The board of education for Valdez City Schools is preparing to hold its first public forum to discuss a possible four-day school week.
School administration hosted two meetings on the topic earlier in the year. While several board members attended the meetings as participants, this is the first official meeting specifically hosted by the board.
Jacob Jensen, district superintendent, said it will be an important meeting to attend for anyone who wants to talk to the board about the proposal, whether you are for or against such a change.
The push for a four-day week is spurred on by a high rate of absenteeism in the upper grades, especially among student athletes.
Supporters of the four-day school week, including a large number of educators, believe switching students to a four-day school week will decrease high rates of absenteeism on Fridays and improve student performance overall. Supporters also say teachers – many who are also coaches - will miss less school with the four-day week.
Detractors often argue that the proposal makes the school day too long for younger students, especially those that live in outlying areas of the district who already catch the school bus as early as 7: 13 a.m. They also worry of an increase in the number of so called latch-key kids, students who stay home alone on weekdays when school is out.
Others argue it is unfair to allow school schedules to be driven by school athletes.
Proponents counter with the argument that teachers often take Friday’s off for out-of-town medical appointments, as do students. They say switching to a four-day school week will cut down on the number of times students attend classes with a substitute teacher.
In early March, the board voted to keep the five-day school week calendar for the upcoming 2012/13 school year. If a four-day calendar is adopted by Valdez City Schools, the soonest the change could be implemented would be in the 2013/14 school year.
At a parents meeting held on the subject in mid-March, Ruth Knight, the district’s testing coordinator who is heading the committee formed to explore the four-day school week, also introduced the block schedule concept for the upper grades.
The block schedule – in its rough form – features a total of eight classes for upper grades, compared with the current schedule of seven classes. The difference would be that students would attend only four classes per day with a length of 90 to 110 minutes, depending on the model.
Students would then attend only four classes per day under a rotating system. For example, a student might be scheduled to attend English, math, science, and PE on Mondays and Wednesdays, then attend classes for history, social studies, art and culinary arts on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The proposed four-day school week - as proposed - would also eliminate in-service days for students. This means teachers will still go to work on Fridays, but students will only have days off of the schedule for official holidays.
The meeting is open to the public. It will be held Monday, April 30, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Valdez High School cafeteria.