By Roger Sims, email@example.com
A staff survey of Prairie View USD 362 employees revealed that the majority of the staff was in favor of moving from a five-day to a four-day school week.
That was the message that district Superintendent Chris Johnson delivered to members of the school board on Tuesday, Nov. 21. However, at least two of the board members voiced opposition to shifting from a five-day week to a four.
“We’re a five-day society, and I think we’re doing good the way we are,” said Board Member Russell Pope, adding that he wouldn’t support the shift.
“I concur with that,” said Board Member Rita Boydston.
Johnson broached the four-day week to the board during its Oct. 17 meeting. Johnson told the board then that in the Crane, Mo., district where she worked before coming to Prairie View, the employees preferred the shorter week with longer days.
Over the course of the following month, Johnson was able to poll staff about the possibility.
Of the 159 responses she received, about 50% came from teachers, 24% from para educators and 13% from administrators. One hundred thirty-one respondents, or more than 82%, were in favor of a four-day week with about 18% for keeping the five-day schedule
Respondents were able to comment on the survey, and Johnson said that the main concerns were longer work days, students who need to be in school for food missing a day, and a cut in pay for hourly workers such as paras.
Board Member Brian Uphoff, who said he read through the responses, said that other concerns were child care, the loss of health insurance benefits for workers who fell below the 30-hour-per-week minimum, feeding the student on Friday, and the effect on school sports.
Johnson said that responses on the question of benefits included more collaboration time for teachers and staff, time for personal appointment and errands, increased attendance, stress relief for students, better staff morale, and retention and recruitment of teachers,
But Uphoff said that in reading of the responses, the word “academic” was used very little - in either the for or against responses. “That really shocked me,” he said.
“In general, nobody used the words ‘academic’ or ‘student education’ more than three or four times,” Uphoff said.
Johnson asked the board members what direction they wanted her to take: either research it further or drop the subject.
Uphoff asked if Johnson could research districts that have gone to the four-day week and bring results back to the board for further consideration.
Johnson said that while she had been able to find districts with smaller enrollment than Prairie View, around 500 students, she had not run across any that were equal to Prairie View’s size of about 800 students.
Boydston asked if, after a couple of years of four-day week scheduling, it would be difficult to go back to five-day weeks.
“There’s nothing that says you have to stay with this schedule,” Johnson said. “As long as you’re meeting the requirements of the state on your hours, then you can fix your schedule the way you want to fix your schedule.”
Several smaller rural districts across Kansas shifted to a four-day week during the budget crunch of the administration of former Gov. Sam Brownback. The shift to a four-day week enabled those districts to save on transportation and support staff costs because the buses were on country roads 20% less and foodservice workers were needed one less day a week.
Board President Wade Teagarden said that before he would be willing to move forward with the four-day week, he wanted to see data from districts that have done it.
Uphoff said he would want to see information on student attendance and how it impacted students.
“A lot of what I saw made it really great for adults, but maybe didn’t necessarily make it great for kids,” said Uphoff.
Pleasanton USD 344 has a day that is slightly longer than those of Prairie View and Jayhawk USD 346. That allows the district to start its school year later in August and end it earlier in May, but it still maintains a five-day week.