Gainesville School District will transition to four-day school week in 2021-22
At its Feb. 22 meeting, the Gainesville R-V School District board voted to transition to a four-day in-person school week beginning with the 2021-22 school year.
Gainesville Superintendent Justin Gilmore said the board is expected to decide at its next meeting, to be held March 22, which weekday Gainesville classes will not be in session next year. The change to a four-day week will impact all grades, from pre-school through grade 12, he said.
At the March meeting, the board is also expected to set the hours for the slightly longer school day, but Gilmore said he did not anticipate that the change would impact morning pickup times for the district’s bus routes. The current bus schedules already deliver students to the school well ahead of this year’s 8:01 a.m. starting time, and he anticipates that the new starting time will be only a few minutes earlier. The end of the school day will probably also be extended, perhaps by 20 minutes or so, he said.
The change will let the district eliminate the online “virtual Friday” classes it has had this year in response to the covid pandemic. In those classes, students work from home on computers, connecting with their teachers through the internet.
Gilmore said shifting to a four-day school week was “not a hasty decision. It’s something the board has been discussing off-and-on for three and a half years.”
The change is expected to save the district 20 percent of transportation costs and some utility expenses, Gilmore said, but that wasn’t the main factor in the board’s decision. Above all, the board’s overriding concern has been “trying to decide what’s best for our kids,” he said. In previous years and previous boards, some members were “somewhat reluctant” to make the change, he said, adding that most of the formerly reluctant board members now feel more confident that the four-day week will be best for Gainesville students.
During its ongoing considerations, the board studied data and research related to the four-day school week that was compiled by Missouri State University assistant professor Jon Turner. And Bakersfield superintendent Amy Britt met with the Gainesville board to discuss that district’s experience with the four-day week since transitioning in the 2019-20 school year. Lutie School also operates on a four-day week. Both of those districts have Mondays as their day “off.” Dora has a modified calendar that has students attending class four days of many weeks but not all.
Gilmore said part of the district’s consideration for doing what’s best for its students includes the goal of “being able to hire and retain the highest-quality teachers. And to hire that quality of teacher, we have to have opportunities to offer them,” he said.
The United States is currently seeing a severe teacher shortage, he said, and four-day school weeks are appealing to many teachers for several reasons, he said, “especially when you start talking about travel” to work. Some Gainesville teachers live as far away as Forsyth and Ava, he said; several live in the Thornfield area. So eliminating that drive to Gainesville one day a week for a school year is a savings for those teachers, he said.
Offering a four-day week will also help compensate for the Gainesville’s relatively low $29,000 starting salary, he said. “I’ve got Mountain Home (Arkansas) 30 miles south that pays its first-year teachers $37,000 a year,” Gilmore said.
“What I hope people understand is that the board looked at four-day school week through many lenses – what’s best for the students, the parents, and financially – to ensure this is the best decision for the kids and the Gainesville R-V School District.