Additional public input on changing to a four-day school week was received by the Nashua School Board at its regular meeting Monday, Jan. 20, in the Nashua School Library.
Brenda Koessl, board chair, stated that the board would not be voting on the issue at the meeting. She commented that board members have been researching the pros and cons of a four day week versus the current five day week. Koessl said that surveys given to parents, teachers, and students had been returned.
A decision on the four-day school week will be made by the board at its meeting on Feb. 4.
After stating that those who wish to state their opinion would have 2 minutes to do so, Koessl opened Monday’s meeting to the public.
“There’s been no change in test scores in schools that have gone to four days,” said resident Carl Laumeyer, a parent. “I spoke with a board member from a school that has gone to four days and was told there is no cost savings in the shorter week. A teacher from a school with a four day week said it made it difficult for the students with special needs and it took a bit to get back on track after not being in school for three days. Some elementary teachers from the same school also stated their students took a while to get back to where they’d been. I’ve also spoken with parents whose children are in a four day week school and they said they didn’t know when the days off were as those days sometimes changed.”
Resident Gerry Brabeck told the board members that they are entrusted with the children’s education.
“It’s about our kids,” he said. “They are the future. And they need to be given a model. The work week is not four days, it’s five. The kids are in school four academics, not sports. Everything and everyone else is irrelevant. You must do what’s best for the kids.”
Koessl asked those present to not assume the board is either four or against a four-day week. She said that as far as she knew no board member had made a dyed in the wool decision as yet.
“In my opinion, adding 9 minutes won’t increase productivity of the students,” stated Jenny Sibley, a parent. “They lose Friday time in the classroom. It’s hard enough now four kids to focus. And going to a four day week will cut elective course choices. There will be less time for gym and music as well.”
A comment was made that kids who leave early for sports on days other than Friday lose more than Friday instructional time.
“The more often you do things the more successful you are,” commented Kirk Sibley. “I don’t want the kids to receive a bare minimum education. I’m opposed to a four-day week. One less day in school will lead to home schooling on the off day.”
When asked about the length of the school year with a four day week, the audience was told one proposal is to start school on Aug. 25 and end on May 22. Another option would be to start school on Aug. 25 and end on June 4. The difference between the end dates is that the May 22 option includes several five day weeks.
“Kids who live on farms work on the farm,” said Greg Nybakken, a parent. “They need to be home from June through August.”
A member from the audience told the board they didn’t think enough time was put in two years ago when the possibility of changing to a four day week was addressed. But the board this time had done a lot of research. The person went on to compliment the fact that students who need individual attention receive it and they hope that doesn’t disappear if the change to a four day week is made.
“My son is in fourth grade,” said Justine Laumeyer. “The students did not pass a multiplication test so the teacher had to go back over what they had learned in third grade. Kids need to have more time in school, not less. I don’t want to see them just pushed through.”
A teacher stated she would like for the board to consider flexibility in the school week when making its decision.
Koessl said she was going to also give board members 2 minutes each to make comments. She started the session off with the statement that survey results showed more people against than for the change. The surveys returned by the teachers showed 95 percent of them are for a four-day week.
“I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this,” said Nashua School Superintendent Jennifer Cunningham. “It’s not an easy decision. I came back here because of what this area and community gave me and I wanted to give back.
“A longer school day would increase daycare on Friday. And this does affect me as I have two children in school. It’s hard to talk about this from just one standpoint,” she said.
Next to speak was board member Joe Laumeyer. “I know I’m elected by the community and have an obligation to them. I empathize with the kids. It’s truly all about them. Right now I’m not 100 percent one way or the other. At the meeting held in January, the teachers gave me a lot of food for thought,” he concluded.
“I feel like Joe,” said board member Cole Sibley. “I’m elected by the community and I have to separate my duty as a board member from parenting. It’s a complex puzzle and I’m trying to put the pieces together. I don’t think there’s a wrong or right decision. I do appreciate everyone and their comments.”
Board member Dale Pugh commented that he has two elementary children. “The surveys showed students and teachers and a slim amout of parents for a four day week. Scheduling problems will happen with schools who aren’t on a four day week. We need to put serious thuoght into this especially if we decide to implement it.”
“I appreciate the feedback from the community,” said board member Ryan Williams. “I try to keep an open mind. Sports play a big part, although I do put education over sports. There are lots of ways Friday can be utilized. It all boils down to lots of details. I’m listening intently.”
Board clerk Linda Parpart stated there are lots of pros and cons. She said she has no strong feeling one way or the other and that she can relate to all of the issues. She went on to say that it’s not just the students in sports who miss school but there are also elementary students who miss because of sports.
Koessl then reopened the meeting to the public to give everyone who wished to a chance to speak.
“I have a child in kindergarten,” said Patti Sibley, a parent. “I feel taking one day away from school gyps my child. I also think if a student wants to be in sports they have to work harder to be in them. I have two children so no school one day a week means they both have to be in day care and that’s $50.”
Wes Miller said he appreciated where everyone is at. “It’s not just about the amount of time but what is done with that time. I can’t grasp that there is no cost savings.”
One of the teachers present said that with extra time in the school day she would be able to work more with the students one on one.
Another teacher stated that an extra 9 minutes a day would be a huge plus. She said she has three classes that are going to start a big project and that nine minutes would be condensed minutes. The students wouldn’t have to wait until the next day to get back to her with questions.
The statement was made by a board member that recruitment of teachers is also a factor in a four day week.
Jenna Johnson, who teaches music, said no school on Friday would give her the chance to have an elementary choir and also give her music students a chance to perform for organizations. Upon which an audience member asked how do you get the rural students to school for extra things on Friday.
The public comment period was then closed.
In other business, the board changed its regular meeting date to the third Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. starting in March.
Cunningham reported that the Lego team will be going to state competition in Bozeman. The team’s theme is a natural disaster and they will give their skit in the format of the television show “Shark Tank.”
Williams and Cunningham will attend a MTSBA workshop in Wolf Point in Feburary.
The board clerk stated that the board needs to be thinking about health insurance. With the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act, there are lots of issues and changes. She recommended that the insurance agent for the school attend the next meeting and give a presentation. The board members agreed they need to have access to much more information about providing health insurance.