FCPS adopts 4-day school week for 2022-23

Published 11:10 pm Thursday, May 19, 2022

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The Franklin City School Board voted 4-1 during its May 5 work session to adopt a proposed four-day school week schedule for the 2022-23 school year.

Ward 1 Board Member Robert Holt was the lone dissenting vote, and Ward 4 Board Member Marchelle F. Williams and Ward 6 Board Member Jerry McCreary were absent.

The proposed and adopted schedule for the upcoming Franklin City Public Schools school year features the following:

  • Monday-Thursday: normal bell schedule from 2021-22 with slightly longer days
  • Friday: every other one is an off day for students and staff
  • Friday: every other one in between the off days is a half day for students and work/professional development day for teachers

This translates to 17 Fridays during the school year that students and staff will have off and 17 Fridays in which students will have half days and teachers will have work/professional development.

Tamara Sterling

“The half days for students on Fridays will be used for project based learning, awards assemblies, class meetings with administration, career exploration, clubs and other creative learning strategies,” Sterling said. “Half days for staff will be utilized as planning, PLCs, data meetings, (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) training, (Individualized Education Program) meetings, parent meetings and staff meetings, and of course, there could be a whole lot more depending on what the agenda is, set by the principal and by central office.”

Sterling noted that technically teachers will be working a whole day on those half days when the students are out, but the schedule builds on the half-day wellness days teachers are receiving now by giving them two full off days each month and possibly even three in some cases.

“That would just be on a rotating basis,” she said, referring to the Friday scheduling. “Even if we have five Fridays in a month, it would just be a rotating schedule.”

Sterling indicated that central office will not be closed on the off days. In her presentation, she stated that a rotating schedule will be created to ensure that the central office is open until 4:30 p.m. on half- and full-day school closures.

No board member at the work session spoke against the proposed schedule, but Holt said, “I think we need to get the data from the parents and the teachers. So you can vote, but I would vote against it.”

Franklin City Public Schools was polling all three schools at the time of the work session to determine schedule preference for 2022-23, and town hall meetings at all three schools were to be scheduled during the week of May 9, facilitated by the principals.

Regardless of the board’s vote, FCPS Superintendent Dr. Tamara Sterling said the town halls would be taking place.

At-large Board Member Carrie Johnson, who seconded the motion to adopt the new schedule, said, “Worst case scenario, if we approve it tonight and the feedback is abysmal, we can revise it.”

Ward 2 Board Member and Board Chair Amy L. Phillips said that Ward 5 Board Member Dr. Andrea Shelton, who made the motion to adopt the schedule, could simply rescind it at the board’s next meeting, if necessary.

“So if we rescind it, it just reverts back to what it was,” Johnson said, “but if there was an alternative, then we would need to make a new motion.”

Sterling opened her recommended 2022-23 academic calendar change presentation during the work session by providing some background information on the subject.

She noted that public schools across the country are cutting their budgets in creative ways that challenge community stakeholders. 

“One example is moving to a four-day school week,” she stated in her presentation.

She noted that the four-day schedule has a nearly 50-year history in the U.S., and of the 15,000 school districts in the country, more than 560 have moved to a four-day schedule.

A four-day schedule can free up professional development time for teachers and save school districts a modest amount of money, Sterling stated, but the change involves challenges for school stakeholders. 

She acknowledged that schools considering this move need to weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Starting with the pros, she highlighted five benefits of moving to a four-day school week.

Her presentation first emphasized a financial benefit, stating that by altering the traditional school schedule, the idea is that districts can save money. Each school day involves expenses like utilities and water consumption, as well as meals and cafeteria expenses. Many school staff members earn hourly wages, so labor savings can add up on the days when they do not work.

The next benefit cited was educational. During a four-day school week, teachers use the fifth day for professional development and in service, Sterling stated. Proponents of this type of school scheduling suggest students can use this time for special tutoring or enrichment activities. 

“This particular research is right along the lines on what Franklin City Public School administrators and stakeholders were thinking about,” Sterling said.

Her presentation further stated that many schools that switch to a four-day week extend existing school days, so students benefit from longer class periods involving more hands-on learning.

The next benefit mentioned was related to athletics.

“Athletics tend to take up a lot of school time,” Sterling stated in her presentation. “Many schools that opt for a four-day school week also change their athletic schedules to include practices and meets on the fifth day so that athletics do not interfere with academics.”

After looking at the proposed daily schedules for Franklin’s schools in the four-day model, Johnson was pleased that practices would still be possible during the week rather than just being relegated to Fridays.

Sterling’s presentation underscored attendance as a benefit of the four-day school week. Many students and staff miss days due to appointments and other engagements. Having one unscheduled day a week allows them to schedule those appointments outside of school hours. This can prevent students from falling behind and keep teachers from taking unneeded personal days.

The last benefit Sterling highlighted in her presentation was supervision.

“The longer school days of the four-day schedule means students get home around the time their parents return from work,” she stated. “This means after-school programs may not be necessary, which will save parents money and ensure that kids are not coming home to empty houses.”

Later in the meeting, FCPS Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Dwana White listed another benefit she saw in the schedule: “This is an excellent recruitment strategy.”

After mentioning benefits to the new schedule, Sterling then addressed challenges, the first being financial.

“Changing school scheduling means parents will need to secure child care for the days children are not in school,” her presentation stated.

The next challenge cited was extracurricular. While schools can move athletic practices and meets to the unscheduled fifth day of the week, the four-day schedule will not leave time for additional practices throughout the week. But as Johnson noted, the new schedule specifically proposed for FCPS revealed that this would not be as big of a challenge as anticipated.

The presentation next noted that the new schedule could pose a personal challenge for some students.

“For some children, school is the safest environment,” Sterling stated in the presentation. “At school, they get regular meals, supervised recreation and meaningful adult attention. For these children, a five-day school week is usually the better option.”

Lastly, Sterling addressed the physical challenge of longer school days Monday-Thursday. Longer days mean wearier children. The younger the child, the more difficult an eight-hour school day can be. 

“The young children have a harder time with sustainability of staying up without nap time, so we may have to incorporate nap time, because we eliminated nap time for pre-K and kindergarten because they needed more time on instruction,” Sterling said. “So that’s something that might have to be brought back.”

Sterling shared with the board what the next steps were in connection to the new schedule. In addition to the polls and town hall meetings, she noted in her presentation that she would be facilitating an information webinar for parents.

She also stated that a meeting would be scheduled with child care providers regarding the calendar change to seek child care support.

Lastly, she noted that the local Boys & Girls Club will be operating from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on the full Fridays off, which could be of help to parents.