Teachers are required to continually conduct student assessment, and frequently meet as teams to discuss student achievement, curriculum and participate in professional education, all of which take them out of the classroom.
In addition to time savings realized by reducing administrative overhead in the daily schedule, schools would have to increase the length of the instructional day. Smith said, based on the transportation schedule, the change would vary from school to school though all would increase. "The smallest increase in daily instructional time is five minutes, the longest is 20," Smith said.
The Webster County school district was the pioneer in the four-day school week in Kentucky; they changed their calendar in 2003. While Webster made its change based wholly on economic reality, it has enjoyed some educational benefits, most notably improved attendance and a boost in student performance. Webster County's 2007 report card showed that the rural district performed better then state averages in standardized testing, graduation rates, retention and successful transition to adult life.
Initially, Webster County parents were concerned with childcare issues, particularly single parent families and those households where both parents worked. Now, however, most of that district's parents are on board. Webster Superintendent James Kemp said in an interview in August, "If we were to go back to a five-day week, the school board and I would be run out of town."
The Kentucky Education Association hasn't taken an official stand on the four-day school week, but it echoed the Webster parents' initial concern in a statement that said, "We're not sure it's the best thing from a safety and health standpoint for the children. In many cases, school is the safest place for a child to be."
The proposed schedule was not created in a vacuum. Lincoln school district leaders met with the Webster County superintendent and DPP on Feb. 20 to hear their experiences with the four-day schedule. A subcommittee of district personnel created two proposed four-day schedules, one that included a fall break and one that did not, and all district personnel had the opportunity to vote on which schedule they preferred.
Smith said, in the past, when an issue came to a vote, employees in the district's smaller schools often complained that the high school, which has the most employees, controlled the vote. To offset this advantage, each school had one vote based on what its employees wanted. Smith said that eight schools voted for the plan with a fall break, one voted for the plan without a break, and one school chose neither of them.
One of the concerns with a four day school week is that some classified employees could have their work hours cut, most notably bus drivers and food service workers. A cut in food service hours would help out the district because that program is financially in the red and showing no signs of improving. In an August interview, Food Services Director Janet Jacobs, who has since retired, said, "Every year the deficit grows. It used to be that food services had a pretty good bank balance, and the ladies deserve every pay raise they get, but because of the pay raises and the increasing cost of food, their bank balance is gone."
Another huge savings could be realized in transportation costs. As early as June of last year, District Transportation Director Ronnie Deatherage told the school board that a four-day school week could provide up to a 20-percent savings in fuel costs, as well as a 20-percent reduction in wear and tear on the county's buses.
Additionally, the district could reap huge savings in the number of substitute teaching days. By pushing training, meetings and teacher appointments to Monday, there would be a dramatic cut in the number of times substitutes are required.
At tonight's hearing, Smith will explain the schedule to the public, how it was developed and what the district expects to gain from the transition. After the hearing, Smith will consolidate all of the public comments and present them, with the proposed schedule, to the school board, which meets in its regular session on Mar. 12. If the board approves the recommendation, Smith will forward it to the education commissioner for approval.
Superintendent Woods hopes the discussion will not focus on money, but on enhancing the district's instruction. "If we didn't think this would improve student achievement we wouldn't do it."
The proposed schedule is available for viewing on the district's Web site www.lincoln.kyschools.us.