Berry discusses 4-day school week

Roseanne McKeeJ-C Correspondent
Berry discusses 4-day school week

Dr. Landon Berry spoke to the Pawhuska Kiwanis Club on Jan. 14, about the possibility of Pawhuska School District switching to a four-day school week, which Dr. Berry said would most likely be on the school board’s agenda in February or March at their regular meeting held the second Monday of each month.

Berry explained that the idea did not originate with the school board.

“Really, it is a committee that formed for the four-day week that is asking our board to consider this.”

Berry said he has not made up his mind.

“If I had to vote today, and I’ve been doing this 29 years, I don’t know how I’d vote. And, thank God, I don’t have to vote, because I can see both sides.”

Berry said he has not been presented with statistical research by the committee, but he has heard the opinions of the teachers who support a four-day week.

“For the hours they spend grading papers, the hours they spend going to activities, teachers probably really don’t make much money by the hour. Teachers ask that the lights be left on later because they’re up there until 8 o’clock working and you have to do that to stay ahead,” he said.

“You’re in a room with 25 kids… It’s a difficult job. That’s exactly why they’d like to see that and you need to come listen to them. They have legitimate things to say.

“I can just tell you without even doing a survey of teachers only, that I think 80 percent of the staff would be for this. They would have to work the same number of hours,” he said. “The state requires 1,080 hours per school year plus five professional days. The high school day now at Pawhuska High School is 8:15 – 3:10 p.m.”

Berry explained that the state of Oklahoma made this change from days to hours in order to save money.

“The reason this is an option now is that the state changed the number of days requirement to a number of hours requirement. The reason they did that is real simple — money. They were not willing to give schools money. Schools were hurting for money. They still are. They gave schools the option of doing the hours, so schools could save money by not having as much overhead.”

Some say that a four-day week would reduce support staff and bus costs, he said.

According to Berry, by switching to the four-day week, “the state says, ‘now we don’t have to give you more money because you saved money.’”

Saving money is why the state agreed to the idea, Berry said.

“People can say whatever they want but that’s where it comes from.”

The budget cuts for public school funding in Oklahoma has been an issue for some time, he said.

Berry said the four-day week got started in Colorado “because they were having major financial problems.”

Although it would benefit teachers, the impact on students is Dr. Berry’s primary concern.

“Here we’ve got these kids who are not going to get a hot meal on that day. Our free and reduced lunch rate is pretty high. I would say somewhere between 68-75 percent, so I am concerned about food.”

In Pawhuska there are limited daycare facilities, Berry said.

“Daycare is a big deal for me.” On the extra day off, he wondered, “are these kids going to be downtown?”

Having voiced several potential concerns, Berry said his biggest concern was the quality of instruction.

“Does it improve test scores? When these kids go to college are students better prepared or are they not? Is it going to help our kids, hurt our kids or keep them about the same? That’s the number one reason we’re there for instruction for academics,” Berry asked.

“To me the biggest thing I see, I have two kids in that school system right now. I want to know is it going to help my kids? Are they going to get a better education? Is it going to help them? If a four-day week does a better job, I’m all for it, but I want to see the research done – as a parent. It’s a tough call. It’s a tough subject.”