Concordia Parish School Board considering four-day workweeks

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, January 17, 2024

VIDALIA, La. — Concordia Parish School Board officials discussed switching from five days of school each week to four days of school and a fifth day for intercessions and tutoring.

CPSB Testing Coordinator Paula Fuqua went over the pros and cons of such a schedule with the school board during its Thursday meeting.

“Several of the parishes around us have gone to a four-day workweek,” she said. “LaSalle, Grant, Winn, Avoyelles, Caldwell, Franklin and Catahoula,” to name a few. 

Email newsletter signup

“That is who we are in competition with for getting teachers. I know that we’ve had some teachers leave us even to go to Catahoula where they’re not getting paid as much. But they go there because of the four-day week,” Fuqua said.

Pros that these other parishes have seen are improved attendance for both students and teachers, improved teacher and faculty retention and recruitment, more available substitute teachers, improved mental health of students and faculty, longer weekends and a potential decrease in discipline infractions. 

“Cons are fewer opportunities to provide meals to students, some say there is an impact on extracurricular activities, longer school days affect bus routes and after-school pickup and families have to make adjustments for childcare,” Fuqua said. Pointing to a slideshow on how these cons could be addressed, she said extracurriculars and sports games could still be held on days when students are not in school so there wouldn’t be an impact.

Some schools use off days for tutoring and other programs, she added.

“In talking to the teachers from these parishes, I don’t know any of the teachers who would like to go back to a five-day week,” she said. 

Schools have to maintain the same number of instructional hours each school year regardless of how many working days in a week there are. Some, like Catahoula Parish, do this by increasing the length of the school day or shortening summers or holiday breaks.

“Catahoula increased the number of minutes per day by almost an hour,” Fuqua said. “Some of the teachers don’t like that long of an increase. They think they lose their children. LaSalle Parish started their school year on a five-day week up until Labor Day, then they will do a five-day week during testing and on the last two weeks of school. They did not have to add but 10 to 12 minutes to their day.” 

Another downfall of four-day work weeks with tutoring and intercession days is that the school district would have to pay teachers more to come to work five days instead of four.

Superintendent Toyua Bachus said what Concordia Parish schools would do is use time and funds planned for tutoring, intersession and summer school and work that into the school year, especially since fewer students are willing to come to school during summer break than during breaks in the school year. 

“At the beginning, they had their challenges,” Bachus said of other school districts. “But if this is something the school district wants to do, we won’t make their mistakes. … We know their issues … but if we were to do this, we would not go into this with the mindset of closing school the fifth day. … I would ask this board to look at a four-day week with mandatory days where students would have to come to school built in. There may be an influx in cost. … If we see (a student) is struggling now, instead of waiting until summer to start (their) intervention we would start getting those 30 hours in now.”

School board members Wayne Wilson and Derrick Carson suggested sending out a survey with a proposed calendar attached that adjusts the number of school days each week to four days to gather parent and teacher input.

Other school board members agreed to send out the survey.

In other matters

The school board voted and named board member Fred Butcher vice president of the board and board member Lisette Foreman the new board president, a position that Butcher has held the last four years.

“I’d like to thank the board for entrusting me to be your president over the last four years,” Butcher said. “It has been a challenge and we’ve got some more challenges coming. It’s very important that we work closely together as a board because the challenging times coming for us, some we have in our control and some we don’t.”

The school district also heard Bachus present her job performance evaluation in order to consider extending her contract, which is nearing the end of its term, for another three and one-half years.

“I’m fully prepared and enthusiastic about the prospect of serving another consecutive term as your superintendent,” Bachus said. “I want to assure you that my commitment to excellence remains unwavering.”

Bachus highlighted the improved school performance scores at each school in the district during her tenure as superintendent, a success that she attributed to the hard work of school personnel under her leadership. 

In the last three years, scores also improved for all Ferriday schools, schools for which growth was a specific requirement of the contract. 

The district as a whole increased its overall SPS score by seven points, which is over three points higher than the required growth and expectations stated in her contract, Bachus said.

Graduation rates at all high schools also increased. Furthermore, grant funds obtained these past three years have improved vocational programs, modernized computer labs, and expanded SAT testing opportunities.

Daily attendance rates did not improve, which Bachus attributes to challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the state-issued Value-Added Model (VAM) ratings, Bachus said teacher effectiveness improved with all but three teachers in the district. 

“If that contract performance card was graded by this board on a test, I would have a 93A,” Bachus said. “I do believe I should get five extra points and get a 98A due to exceeding so many of the expectations in categories.”

School board officials said committee members would independently review Bachus’ score and discuss any extension or adjustments to the superintendent’s contract at a future board meeting. No actions were taken regarding the contract during Thursday’s meeting.