UPDATE: Missouri House approves 4-day school week option

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | 2:52 p.m. CST; updated 3:48 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 24, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House gave first-round approval Tuesday to a bill that would give school districts the option of holding classes four days a week.

Districts choosing a four-day week could lengthen their school days by an hour and have 32 fewer days of instruction each year. The total number of annual instruction hours would stay the same.

Sponsoring Rep. Gayle Kingery, R-Poplar Bluff, said he has heard from nearly 100 rural districts that are interested in a four-day week because it would save money on transportation and utilities.

"Our traditional calendar, while it's good for most of us, it doesn't quite fit all of our communities," said Kingery, a former school administrator, teacher and coach.

Critics said they were worried a longer school day could hamper a student's ability to learn.

"Students often learn better during those optimal times of the day," said Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield, also a former school principal and teacher. "We may be sacrificing student learning in the process."

Based on his experience at a school that doubled the time students spent in kindergarten, Kingery said he was confident students could handle an extra hour every day.

"The children are so resilient," he said. "They took to the all-day kindergarten like a duck to water."

House members voted 98-62 to approve a committee version of the bill and then gave the legislation first-round approval on a voice vote. It still needs another vote to move to the Senate.

Seventy-seven Republicans joined 21 Democrats in voting for the bill. Ten Republicans and 52 Democrats voted against it.

Rep. Joe Aull, a former school superintendent, said he probably wouldn't have implemented a four-day week at one of his districts. But he said it might be a good fit for some rural districts.

Aull, D-Marshall, also noted a provision that requires a district to revert to a five-day calendar if the district gets lower scores on two performance standards in two consecutive years.

Some lawmakers raised concerns that parents who work five days per week would have to pay for child care if a school district adopted a four-day school week.

"You're putting costs back on the taxpayer," said Rep. Ray Salva, D-Sugar Creek, who ultimately voted for the bill. "They just can't afford it. They're having a struggling time right now."

Kingery said most parents would either send their kids to private day care or school districts would create a system in which high school seniors and teachers take care of younger students.

"In every state where this has been implemented, child care has become pretty much of a nonconcern," Kingery said. "People have adapted to it."

Lampe also said that meals at school make up most of the diet for some children.

"We're going to have children very hungry on Monday morning," Lampe said. "I don't think it puts children first and foremost in our decision-making."


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Angela Day February 26, 2009 | 12:57 p.m.

What about high school kids that w/ jobs they need to get to after school? Should we tell companies to adjust?

Absorption of information? Will this be diminished? How many hours a day can we expect a student to sit and absorb information? Missouri law currently does not offer but 3,000 minutes of gym (actual movement) to middle school children but requires high school students to take a full year of gym all four years to graduate. My son has a high IQ and is a visual spatial learner. He requires movement throughout his day in order to process/ absorb information. He has struggled this year transitioning to sixth grade because they expect you to sit from 7:55 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. with four minutes of movement between classes and 20 minutes of movement at lunch and one six weeks. This is not conducive to children are on the higher learning capability spectrum.

Remember 50%+ of households have two working parents. What about parents that do not currently utilize any form of daycare service and would have to find care for only one day per week. How many providers provide services for one day a week? What about the parents that would have increased costs for a full day of care they do not currently have to pay for?

A very small percentage of companies allow four day work weeks but large majorities do not. Parents will not have cutting back to a four day work week as an "option."

What about after school activities? Will they be adjusted so children will get home later in the evening during the four days they are in school and then have to adjust scheduling for dinner and homework?

My biggest concern is the reasoning of "there is not enough time to fit everything we need to do in" that I have already been given for situations occurring in our school.

Another concern is that the online system our district offers to track your children’s grades, lunch money, etc. isn’t updated regularly. School administration indicated they ask teachers to update every Wednesday for the prior week information. This hasn’t been occurring since the beginning of the year. I was told that is because the teachers can only update when they are at school. So, here is another concern if we remove them from school more will this system ever function as it is meant to function?

What about parents that cannot afford after school care already and leave their children home unsupervised when they probably would not if they could afford it. These children will be left at home for a full day instead of just an hour or two after school.

I think there are many issues that would need to be resolved for this to be a viable solution to reduce costs in education without being detrimental to children and families.

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