Jeff Davis School Board votes down 4-day week

Jeff Davis Parish students will not see a shorter school week in the upcoming school year.

The Jeff Davis Parish School Board voted 12-1 Thursday to not implement the four-day school week for the 2023-2024 school year.

Board member Summer Lejeune cast the sole vote in favor of the measure. All other board members voted against the four-day school week.

After the meeting, Lejeune said she felt the board let the community down.

“I am upset for the community of Jeff Davis Parish,” she said. “It was their opinions on the survey that went out that told them how they wanted their elected officials to vote. I felt we could have done better.”

She said the school board staff could have presented results of their research on the four-day school week sooner to give board members more time to study it. Results from the community survey were released in October, but administrators did not present the research until late January, less than a month before the vote.

Board member David Doise said he voted against the shorter school week because he felt education is more important than a day off.

“We have to do better, especially on our test scores, and you can’t do that in a four-day week,” Doise said.

Board President Paul Trahan said enough research was put into considering the four-day school week and the public’s opinion was considered.

“I think the board voted the way the people wanted,” he said.

Chris Moore, was among two people who addressed the board shortly before its vote. He urged the board to consider the negative effect an extended school day could have on children.

“I’ve spoken with teachers who currently teach third, fourth and fifth grade in a four-day school week,” Moore said. “These are teachers who previously loved their job… They are reporting mental and physical exhaustion.”

He said students would not benefit from the extended day because they would be mentally exhausted and no longer focused by the end of the day. He said teachers are also reporting school days are extending past student ADHD/ADD medicine timeframes.

“Personally, I recall having difficulty sitting in a single subject for an hour and half at the college level and did not find that it helped with my learning and understanding of a subject, but having the class more frequently did,” he said. “If I’m experiencing that at a college level, what are elementary students going to experience? It will increase diagnosis and medication of children who are just kids that need to expend energy in a healthy way, probably.”

Moore also expressed concerns about grandparents having to provide childcare for working parents, especially those who can not afford child care.

“Just because you have grandparents doesn’t mean they are retired,” he said. “There are still a lot of grandparents working, and even if they are retired, it doesn’t mean they want to watch their grandkids.”

Angie Cline read statements from Shelly LeBlanc, director of the First United Methodist Church pre-school in Welsh and Kristi Davidson, a parent of a Welsh student.

As director of the FUMC pre-school, LeBlanc said going to a four-day school week would impact the days, hours and service of the program

“We have several families that use us as child care and it is necessary for us to stay open Monday-Friday,” LeBlanc wrote. “Many of my teachers work here so that their schedules could be the same as their children.”

If the four-day school week happened, four of her teachers would be in need of child care every Monday.

“This is something that is in no way doable for me,” she wrote. “We would not be able to keep their children here because all classes are full with the children that attend five days.”

Davidson said the risks of a four-day school week would mean vulnerable children being left alone and unattended.

A four-day week would increase the risk for the most vulnerable children with reduced supervision, care, safety, meaningful structure and food accessibility, she wrote.

“It has been said that school is not a daycare and I wish this was the whole story, but without a doubt that day off will put the most vulnerable children in even more vulnerable situations,” Davidson wrote.

She said older children would be left to manage the eating, safety, behavior and discipline of younger siblings all day, which she considered to be a stressful task for even an adult.

A day off would likely be another day of staring at a screen in relative isolation for many hours while a day of education currently provided for students is let go, she concluded.

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