Jeff Davis considers four-day school week

Published 8:49 pm Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Jeff Davis Parish School Board will begin seeking feedback from parents and employees as it considers proposing a four-day school week.

The School Board discussed the four-day school week at the request of board member Summer Lejeune, but did not vote on the measure. The board decided to conduct the survey and revise the issue next month.

“I think first off we need a teacher and parent survey because if it is overwhelmingly  not wanted, then it’s done,” Board President Paul Trahan said.

Trahan also asked Superintendent John Hall to gather information from other parishes   on the advantages and disadvantages of having a four-day school week, as well as its impact on test scores and financial information.

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Lejeune said she asked that the item be placed on Thursday’s agenda to allow the public and board members to discuss the issue.

“It’s just that Acadia Parish currently has decided that their next school year is going to be four days and I think a lot of our constituents saw that and have an interest to do the same thing for Jeff Davis Parish,” Lejeune said.

Lejeune said after the meeting that  the survey is the responsible way of deciding the issue among those who will be most affected by the change.

“There’s a lot of mixed reviews out there so it will be good to hear from the ones that will be affected the most and what they truly think,” she said, adding that she has received both positive and negative comments about the plan. “Overwhelmingly, most have been for it, but I have been surprised by how many are against it. I didn’t think there would be that many, but they have legitimate reasons, including concerns about child care.”

Lejeune said the change would have to be made because it benefits Jeff Davis Parish,not just because another parish is doing it.

“I totally agree with the survey, but I hope that will only be the beginning because as a board member I am the voice of my community,” board member David Doise said. “Personally before we put this to a vote, I would like to have the consensus of my constituents.”

Several parents attending the meeting, but Brandi Bell, who has students at Lacassine High School, was the only person to address the board.

Bell, who is a former resident of Cameron Parish and a member of a family of educators from Cameron Parish, said Cameron Parish has had an optional four-day school week since 2007 at three of its four schools. Grand Lake High School is the only school that continues to follow the traditional five-day week.

“There’s been a lot of opposition that it is a daycare problem,” Bell said. “First of all, that should not even be considered because school is not a daycare. Our job as parents is to provide care and to secure care for our kids. Your job as educators is to provide education and that’s where the buck should stop. That should not even be considered as a con, in my opinion.”

Many teachers and older students have helped provide daycare in Cameron Parish.

The four-day school has resulted in less absences for students and teachers because they make appointments on their days off, she said. Students also miss less days for activities such as livestock shows and agricultural activities and there is less burnout at the end of the year.

The schools have also adapted their football practice schedules accordingly.

“Our football guys would always say they had the advantage over other schools because they were able to prepare three days when other students didn’t have that opportunity,” she said.

It also helped solve the problem of shortage of referees for sports activities since most games are held on Thursday nights.

She said the four-day school week only added about 8-10 minutes per class per period with 60 minutes class periods.

“You also save money on diesel, gas and electricity,” she said. “You’re not using diesels for buses on Friday and you’re not using electricity in schools on most Fridays.”

It also attracts more teachers because it gives good teachers incentives to seek employment in the parish.

Grades and test scores also improved with the four-day schedule because students and teachers did not miss as many days.

“South Cameron actually received an award for growth this past year and are a four day week, so it doesn’t effect academics because there is less absences and burn out,’ she said.

Fridays are used for tutoring and in-school suspension, which helps deter discipline problems.