Jasper ISD just announced that they will move to a four-day school week starting next school year. A district-wide Educational Improvement Committee, comprised of teachers and parents, is responsible for this change. They also sought input from the community at large which supported the four-day school week.
The length of the school day will remain the same—75,600 minutes plus five bonus days of instruction for students—and educators will use Fridays for PLC meetings and professional development. In addition to the new schedule, district officials announced that teachers and staff will receive bonuses in the coming school year. ESSER funds will be used, and the money is to show appreciation for the hard work of staff during the pandemic.
Ostensibly, both the new schedule and the bonuses are meant to bolster retention and recruitment of teachers. Staffing schools is a crisis throughout Texas. In fact, other districts, including Clarksville ISD, are also considering four-day school weeks to attract teaching staff and prevent turnover. It especially appeals to rural districts where staffing is even more challenging. Petrolia CISD currently has Fridays off, and Olfen ISD has been using the four-day week since 2016.
The key here is extra time for teachers to plan. Teachers everywhere are in short supply of lesson planning time… especially when they must cover the classes of absent staff during their allocated planning time, a common trend that has become the norm in some districts as substitute staff are also increasingly difficult to find. However, in rural districts planning time can be even more of a concern because these educators must teach many different subjects, some of which may be out of their area of expertise. Hence, more planning time is needed to help adequately support teachers and avoid burnout.
Obviously, this change will be problematic for some families. But the staffing shortage in Texas schools is an enormous problem that may demand creative, radical solutions in order for our kids to get the education they deserve.
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