Parish school board seeks public input on four-day week plan

Published 3:31 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

VIDALIA, La. — A series of upcoming town hall meetings seeks stakeholder opinions on a possible shift to four-day school weeks in Concordia Parish.

The meetings are scheduled for Feb. 19, 20 and 21, according to Superintendent Toyua Bachus.

She shared an update with members of the Concordia Parish School Board during Thursday’s meeting, adding the public is encouraged to attend one of any of these meetings where similar information will be shared and discussed.

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The first meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Feb. 19 at the Monterey High School gym.

The second is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 20 at the Ferriday Junior High School gym.

The third is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 21, at the Vidalia Junior High School gym.

The scattered locations are for the convenience of those attending, “to make sure we can hear everyone’s voice,” Bachus said.

“We will give examples of calendars, discuss pros and cons, have a Q and A session and most importantly we will be able to identify any possible areas that need further research,” Bachus said.

Surveys about the potential shift were sent to stakeholders this week and responses are still being received.

“The survey is step one,” Bachus said. “Some people asked why there was no calendar on the survey, but the purpose was not to simply see ‘do you or do you not.’ It’s a data-gathering mechanism so we could see what would you be OK with (or not). We wanted to ask questions such as ‘Would you be OK with shortening your holidays for a four-day work week? Or would you prefer to make the day 45 minutes longer?’ It’s truly asking everyone’s opinion — students, parents and employees.”

Bachus said another meeting on Feb. 23 will strictly focus on the district’s 12-month employees and how the adjusted schedule may work for them.

These meetings will help the district present their findings and come up with sample calendars, she said.

“The survey can tell us some things but it can’t tell us everything,” she said. “We’ve had Town Hall meetings before on different things, and they are truly a way to hear our parents’ voices and as a result, we were able to think outside the box. Our community helps us think about things that sometimes we simply don’t think about. This process is a lot of learning and we are most definitely open to any suggestions.”

School officials are expediting this process for a chance to change the next school year’s calendar.

“We have to submit our student calendar (to the Louisiana Department of Education) by March 30,” Bachus said. “We have to make a decision by then if we want it to happen. … Our goal is to have everything to (the board) in a presentation for the March board meeting.”

A presentation was made to the board during its January meeting on the pros and cons of having four instructional days and perhaps using a fifth day each week for tutoring and other programs.

CPSB Testing Coordinator Paula Fuqua went over what parishes surrounding Concordia Parish have experienced with a four-day schedule, including LaSalle, Grant, Winn, Avoyelles, Caldwell, Franklin and Catahoula parishes.

These are the parishes “we are in competition with for getting teachers,” Fuqua said at the January board meeting.

A four-day week schedule is an incentive to retain and hire qualified teachers. The school district would also have to pay teachers more to come to work five days instead of four.

“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,” Fuqua 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.

Bachus said Concordia Parish schools wouldn’t make the switch “with the mindset of closing school the fifth day” but have mandatory days where certain students would have to come to school for intervention.