Four-Day School Weeks Gaining Ground in Georgia
Filed under: In The News
Looking for new ways to skirt budgetary difficulties, many school districts across Georgia are investigating the lead of one county and shifting to a four-day school week.
For the 2009-2010 school year, Peach County, located near the middle of the state, switched to the shorter week, saving the county more than $300,000 in "transportation and utilities costs" and 39 jobs in the school system, according to the Macon Telegraph.
Last year, the newspaper reports, Peach County had a budget shortfall of $800,000, and the Georgia state legislature gave schools "more flexibility to implement alternative calendars," which allowed Georgia's schools to get rid of 10 days each school year.
The Peach County district then eliminated some of the non-academic programs in the lower grade classrooms, so the time they attend school remains the same each day during the four day week. High school students are attending school an extra 45 minutes per day due to the shortened week. Teacher salaries were not cut in the change, although the state has imposed six days of furloughs per academic year.
While it has yet to be determined if the shorter school week improves academic performances, or if Peach County will continue the schedule next year, the newspaper reports there have been "fewer disciplinary actions and teacher absences as a result" of the change.
However, the school board and the results of the standardized test will probably be the determining factors in a continuation, the Telegraph reports.
Now that classes are being held Tuesdays through Fridays, other Georgia county administrators -- primarily in smaller school districts -- are calling upon Peach County to learn how to make the change as well, the newspaper says.
According to the Telegraph, C.B. Mathis, assistant superintendent of operations in Peach County, has fielded questions from 20 or more administrators trying to determine whether or not to follow Peach County's path and "he tries to give them as much information as possible to anticipate different issues, from how the move would affect transportation employees to getting the local community on board to provide child care for the extra day off."
Peach County is focusing on the educational bottom line by providing "more tutoring for students," the newspaper says.
One northern, midsized county has already shifted to a shorter academic calendar with a 160-day school year. This county will conform to the instructional requirements by adding an extra hour per day, the Telegraph says. Another small county in the state, citing budget cuts as a main reason, approved a four-day school week for the next academic year with the belief it would save the county nearly $100,000, the Telegraph reports. And yet another midsized Georgia county is taking the pulse of its residents to figure out if the four-day change makes sense for next year, according to the newspaper.
While the administrators are working to figure out the budgetary difficulties, the Telegraph reports, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators is being less enthusiastic, "raising concerns about instructional time for struggling students, the effectiveness of a longer school day and ramifications for bus drivers and cafeteria workers."
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