Decision expected soon on 4-day school week

Mike ErwinJournal-Capital

The Pawhuska Board of Education is expected to render its decision later this month regarding a proposal for switching to a four­-day school week.

On Monday, board members were presented with information compiled by a local committee of educators that has been lobbying for the schedule change.

Committee member Jon Marie Wilson expressed strong support for the four-day proposal while presenting various national studies which endorse the shortened-week schedule. She also cited declining student test scores and a rising rate of local truancy, as well as ever-increasing demands on school faculty and staff,

“Something has got to change, because what we’re doing just isn’t working,” said Wilson, a longtime local fifth-grade teacher.

Wilson added that the district could always change back to the current schedule if the four-day plan proved to be ineffective.

The four-day school week could be a adopted for the academic year which begins next September — although some local officials have hinted that additional studies of the plan might be in order.

Results of a local survey were released Monday showing 58 percent of the people who responded said they support changing the Pawhuska public school week from five days to four. Nearly 18 percent said they did not favor the change, while 14 percent indicated more information would be needed before they could make their decision.

Members of the committee made their initial four-day proposal late last fall. At the suggestion of the board, they later held several public meetings to discuss the four-day week with patrons of the school district.

Pointing out that Pawhuska schools have re-filled some of the same teaching positions in each of the past five years, Wilson said the four-day school week could help the district in its recruiting of long-term faculty members. She said area schools that adopted the four-day weeks have noticed major reductions in teacher-turnover rates.

“There are a lot of positives (with a four-day school week),” said another committee member, Stacy BigEagle, who asked the board: “Has anyone found out anything about it that might be detrimental to students?”

Board member Christi McNeil wondered what effect a four-day plan might have on the amount of time spent in class annually and the overall length of the school year.

“It could push our district (graduation ceremonies) into June,” said McNeil, who felt such an occurrence could result in opposition to the plan. “That’s not what people are used to.”

Board member McNeil also said reducing the number of the district’s instructional days should be viewed in relation to its current total, which is above the national average.

“I think there are a lot of people watching to see what we’re going to do on this,” said Wilson, who asked board members when they thought they might be making a decision on the proposal.

Lori Loftis said several board members, including herself, had previously discussed holding a special meeting on the issue, rather than postponing a decision until the board’s regular March agenda.

Included in committee report was the comment: “Change is scary but we can’t let that keep us from trying something new.”

Other local results on the four-day survey showed:

— more than 92 percent of the district’s certified staff wanted to try the new schedule;

— approximately 25 percent of all respondents indicated they would need to use a day-care service if the school week was shortened;

— over 85 percent of parents said they would try to schedule their child’s appointments on the non-class day;

— about a 65 percent majority of respondents preferred Friday as the school-day off, compared to 40 percent favoring Monday;

— at least 15 percent of athletic-program participants said they would be unable to make games and practices on the days school was not in session.

Prior to the discussion about the four-day week, representatives of Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust awarded the Pawhuska school district a check for $2,000 in connection with a wellness policy that was implemented through the efforts of Kindergarten principal Beverly Moore and Electa RedCorn from the Osage Nation Communities of Excellence Program.