Jan 31, 2024

Victoria USD 432 considers 4-day school week; community meeting tonight

Posted Jan 31, 2024 10:45 AM
Victoria High School. File photo
Victoria High School. File photo

Hays Post

The Victoria school district is considering moving to a four-day school week.

The district will host a community meeting on the proposal from 5:30 to 7:30 tonight at the Victoria Elementary School cafeteria. Gina Riedel will facilitate the discussion. Questions can be submitted until noon today at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/D9NHLHP.

Although no decisions on the change have been made, district officials proposed a calendar that would have students attending Tuesdays through Fridays most weeks of the school year. 

Jeanna Wellbrock, board member, said she anticipates the schedule change if it is approved by the board would not be implemented until the 2025-26 school year. 

Students would attend 10 fewer days per school year, but 30 minutes would be added to each school day with students attending from 8 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. That would equal about four to five minutes added to each junior high and high school class period.

The proposed school calendar also would have students beginning classes earlier in August and ending later in May.

Students would still be attending about the same amount of minutes per year under the proposal.

Superintendent Kimberly Woolf said she thought the quality of the time spent in the classroom is more important than how much time is spent.

She said the district is considering the change to offer more time for teacher professional development and improve student academic success.

Woolf said she hopes the change would allow for more professional development time for teachers, which she thought would help recruit new educators and increase the academic performance of the district's students.

Eighty-six percent of teachers surveyed in the district said they would support a change to a four-day school week.

Woolf said the district has struggled with recruitment and retention. The district is only receiving about two applications per open position. 

According to a district presentation on the change, "students who frequently experience teacher turnover struggle with inconsistencies in curriculum and lose caring relationships with adult role models as teachers and coaches. Stability is important to build trusting relationships."

Woolf said the district hopes the development time will allow the district to better align its curriculum to state accreditation standards. The district also hopes to focus on structured literacy.

"We know if our teachers are given that gift of time to be able to be their absolute best, then we know that is going to transfer over to students," Woolf said.

Wellbrock said she hopes the change could help increase family time. She said she hoped teachers would not have to spend as much planning time outside of the workday. 

She said she hoped the longer weekend would reduce stress for students and allow them to spend more time with their families.

District representatives and students visited Ingalls USD 477, which is a similar-sized school district to Victoria and has had a four-day school week for several years.

Students there said the four-day school week allowed them to focus on homework on Mondays. The Victoria district has also suggested a tutor could be available on Mondays for students needing extra help.

Woolf also said the schedule could increase older students' opportunities for job shadowing, internships and mentorships.

District officials hope more time per day at the elementary school will allow teachers to further focus on reading and math.

An example of what a four-day school week might look like in Victoria USD 432. This calendar has not been approved by the board.
An example of what a four-day school week might look like in Victoria USD 432. This calendar has not been approved by the board.

The district also said in an earlier presentation that junior high and high school students would have the opportunity for more meaningful career and technical education classwork and more options for exploratory class offerings such as band, vocal music, agriculture, industrial arts, family and consumer science, health care, and art.

Wellbrock said the Ingalls' students said they preferred having Mondays off as opposed to Fridays because they wanted to be in school on days of varsity athletics.

The four-day school week is not without its drawbacks, among them was a lack of child care for working parents.

About 29 percent of families said child care would be an issue if a four-day school week is implemented. Wellbrock said the district is working with community partners to try to establish care for families who would need additional child care.

The district is also exploring ways to address the nutritional needs for students who are on free or reduced-cost meals during the longer weekend.

Woolf said she anticipates the district will receive little to no monetary savings from the change. Woolf said hourly employees could be affected, but she said she did not see the change as significantly reducing overall hours or pay for those employees.

The top concern, 43 percent expressed by families in a survey, was the length of the additional time added to each school day.

Although the survey asked if parents would support the proposal, that statistic has not been released by the district.

Wellbrock emphasized no decisions on the proposal have been made yet. She said the district and board are still gathering data and input from the community. The proposal schedule is an example of what a four-day schedule might look like. It has not been approved by the board.

"It is not determined that we are going to a four-day week," she said. "We are in the research phase of things and wanted to have public input so that if we decide to go this route, we have looked at it from multiple perspectives to make it the most beneficial we can.

"This is about looking at a different way to see if we think it a better way, or worth trying."