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Athens ISD board set to vote on implementing 4-day instructional week

New calendar would go into effect prior to 2019-2020 school year
Source: Athens ISD Facebook page
Source: Athens ISD Facebook page(Athens ISD Facebook page)
Updated: Dec. 13, 2018 at 4:19 PM CST
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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - On Friday, the Athens ISD School Board will vote on whether the district will institute a four-day instructional week next year.

Rob Risko, the president of the Athens ISD School Board, said Thursday that the district’s leadership will vote on the measure at a meeting at noon Friday.

The meeting will be held at the District Support Center located at 104 Hawn Street.

“The Athens ISD Board of Trustees is committed to serving the educational needs of our students by hiring and retaining teachers of exceptional quality,” Risko said. “We believe that the proposed four-day academic week will uniquely allow our district to accomplish this goal since the best teachers are vital to learning.”

Athens ISD employees learned of the proposal at a district-wide meeting that was held at the Athens High School auditorium on Dec. 3.

During the meeting, AISD Superintendent Blake Stiles, Deputy Superintendent Janie Sims, and Assistant Superintendent Jami Ivey explained the key details of the proposed new calendar. They said if the four-day instructional week is implemented, it will be launched as a three-year pilot program.

The district sent a survey out to Athens ISD employees, parents, and secondary students on Dec. 5.

“Under the plan being considered, students would begin the 2019-2020 school year on Aug. 5, with the last day of instruction being May 28 and graduation on May 29,” a Facebook post about the district-wide meeting stated. “In order to comply with the state’s requirements for a minimum number of instructional minutes during a school year, the instructional day would increase by 50 minutes.”

Under the proposed plan, elementary students would start their school days at 7:45 a.m. and end at 3:55 p.m.

“The expanded school day, among other benefits, allows for longer recess times, which is proven to be particularly beneficial for young children,” the Facebook post stated. “For middle school and high school students, the day would start at 8 and end at 4:25. The later start time for secondary students is also in response to research, which clearly indicates teenagers perform better academically later in the morning.”

At the meeting, Sims explained to the district’s employees that information gathering and investigation process has taken six months so far. He said that process included talking to district leadership officials in other states that have switched to a four-day instructional week.

During the meeting, Sims acknowledged that there are challenges associated with the four-day instructional week. One of those is childcare.

“The number-one concern we have and that we share with others is childcare,” Sims said. “We know childcare on Fridays will be a challenge for some of our parents, and we don’t minimize the seriousness of that. We looked into providing accommodations on Fridays, and it simply isn’t viable for us right now. We have to trust our parents to arrange for childcare as they do during holidays and summer break.”

Sims went on to tell the AISD employees that the potential benefits outweigh the possible challenges.

“A vast amount of research indicates the single greatest factor in the academic success of a student is the teacher, bar none,” said Sims. “We believe this could help us compete with larger school districts and offer our employees a quality-of-life incentive that would be one-of-a-kind in Texas. Having the best teachers means having the best classroom instruction.”

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