PULASKI COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — School board members with Pulaski County Public Schools are discussing the possibility of moving to a four-day instructional week, from the traditional five-day school week.
A four day instruction week may entail an added hour to the school day, and weeks may run Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday, according to a presentation from Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers on Feb. 11. Teachers may be required to report to the school on a Friday or Monday of each month for professional development and faculty meetings.
Siers said the Pulaski School Board Chairman Timothy Hurst requested research on a reduction of the school week as a way to to to attract teachers and retain current staff in the division.
“For the last twenty years education has been the whipping boys due to school choice, increase in standardized testing, and the elimination of school funding for school facilities,” Siers said.
He added, “It’s spilling over to our ability to find qualified teachers.”
He said, similar to nationwide trends and to the Southwest Virginia region, the area faces a teacher shortage.
He said there are about a dozen positions not filled by a permanent highly-qualified teacher including three special education teacher positions. Instead, positions have been filled by long term substitute teachers or retired teachers who return to the job under a special work agreement.
Hurst says that it is not a long-term solution.
According to state law, individual schools can propose a change of schedule, and a board has the authority to approve or deny the change.
Some of the advantages of a four-day instruction week discussed in the meeting were improved student and employee attendance rates, teacher recruitment and retention, cost-savings in fewer bus routes, the opportunity for students to pursue public service projects and work, and overall cost-savings from .04% to 2.5 percent, according to presentation documents.
Disadvantages of a four-day week include a lack of childcare options for younger students when school is out and fewer meals for low-income students. The presentation cited studies that suggest an increase in juvenile crime during days when school is not in session.
According to the Virginia Department of Education, 1,795 students in the division are considered economically disadvantaged, meaning they are eligible or receive free or reduced lunch at school.
He said some of the options that may be available to address disadvantaged students would be to expand the meal program to include an evening meal, and opening the cafeteria for meals when schools are closed.
The school board has scheduled Wednesday, March 4, at 6 p.m. for a community meeting to get feedback on the proposal.
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