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Deep East Texas schools embrace four-day instructional week

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 9:35 AM CDT
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TRINITY COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Some East Texas school districts are embracing a four-day instructional week.

Apple Springs ISD in Trinity County is the latest district to make the change after the school board approved it last month, and they’re not the only ones.

Administrators say though it is fewer days at school, they are still meeting, if not exceeding, the minimum requirement of 75,600 minutes of instruction based on state law.

Starting in August, Apple Springs ISD will conduct classes Tuesday through Friday, with more extracurricular activities on those days, and school days will last 55 minutes longer, from 7:45 a.m. until 4 p.m.

“We’ll have a little bit longer in each class period, especially in our core subjects to make sure we have a good understanding before we rush to the next concept,” said Superintendent Cody Moree.

Moree said the district surveyed parents and staff multiple times before the idea was finalized.

“The lowest response we got in favor of going to four days was about 85 percent, and some of the other surveys were even higher,” he said.

Moree said rural school districts have to compete with larger ones for the same teachers to provide high-quality education for students, but with fewer resources and money.

“We have to attract new people but to keep the really strong folks that we have,” he said. “We’re hoping that by not reducing salaries yet reducing the total amount of days that somebody works throughout the year that will be a good incentive for our folks. You’re also going to save on some transportation costs. Some cafeteria costs, a little bit in utilities.”

Area school districts like Corrigan-Camden and Latexo ISDs have already made the switch.

“We feel like it’s a game-changer,” said Corrigan-Camden Superintendent Richard Cooper.

Corrigan-Camden ISD classes are Monday through Thursday, based on the Angelina College academic schedule for dual credit courses. Elementary students have classes from 7:25 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., with breakfast from 7:25 a.m. to 7:45 a.m., and high school and junior high students attend classes from 7:45 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Cooper said while this school year was the first of a three-year pilot program for the new calendar, with the pandemic, it’s been a lifesaver for staff and students.

“This year was a big ask for every single employee of this district,” he said. It has helped the social and emotional well-being of all those groups tremendously because we work hard for four days, and we get a three-day break, and we come back on Monday, and our folks are refreshed and ready to educate students at a high level.”

Attendance boosts are also another aspect districts are reporting with the four-day week.

“Hopefully, as this becomes routine that mom and dad realize, ‘Hey, I can make that orthodontist appointment on Monday, and my child doesn’t have to miss school,’” Moree said.

Moree said the first day of the next school year where the change will happen for Apple Springs ISD is August 10th.

Cooper said they’ve also kept salaries the same and adjusted their hourly staff employees’ pay rates for them to make the same amount they received in the previous school year, with working fewer hours now.

On social media, some parents voiced concerns over the additional day of childcare that would be needed with this schedule.

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