The Forsyth School District is officially changing to a four-day school week next year.
On Thursday, Dec. 19, the Forsyth School Board approved a proposal for an amended four-day school week calendar for the 2020/2021 school year.
The idea to transition from a five-day school week to a four-day school week came about when the school district was tasked with hiring 27 new employees for the 2019/2020 school year to replace those who had left the district the previous school year.
At a public meeting held at the Forsyth Performing Arts Center on Dec. 9, Forsyth Superintendent Jeff Mingus said hiring new employees has become more of a challenge as they, along with many other districts across the state, have been seeing a decrease in quality applicants. Mingus added that this led the district to ask themselves, ‘What could they do to better attract, hire and retain high quality teachers and staff?’
“We’re just trying to think outside the box and be as competitive and as attractive as we can to applicants. This provides us some leverage. It provides us with a little bit of a bargaining chip that we can use to get those folks coming in,” said Mingus. “We want 35 or 40 people stacked up outside the door wanting to come work and live and be a part of our community. We don’t want to take from the pool of one or two and take who we have to. We don’t want that.”
Currently, the Forsyth School District is in session for 169 days and students have 1,067 instructional hours in the classroom. By switching to a four-day school week, the amended school calendar shows school will be in session for 150 days and they would receive 1,050 instructional hours.
Mingus said that if they’re going fewer days a year, that would mean the days school was in session they would need to be longer.
“So we would attend 150 days and we would add 40 minutes of time per day. I think the key element here is that’s 40 minutes of instructional time,” Mingus said. “Instruction would start earlier in the day and run longer in the day. We’ve looked at a calendar now of 8 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. So really about 15 minutes in the morning time and 25 minutes in the afternoon. We wanted to give a balance there.”
Following the public meeting, the school district sent out a community survey to parents to discover their thoughts on a four-day school week. Similar surveys were also given to students and Forsyth staff. Mingus said the results of the surveys were then presented at the school board meeting for review and discussion.
“As part of our discussion we reviewed the (parent) community surveys, which showed 70% approval,” said Mingus. “We reviewed the student survey, which was 85% approval. We reviewed the staff survey that was at 95% approval and just continued on our discussion.”
Mingus added that the school had a total of 581 survey responses from parents.
“We were pleased with our response rate. That was higher than many of the districts that we had spoken with,” Mingus said. “They had the opportunity to respond to the question, ‘What would be your primary concern?’ About 20% of the folks said child care, but over 40% of the responders indicated that they had no concerns.”
Before the public meeting, Mingus said that the district visited with the Boys & Girls Club in Forsyth, who have made the commitment to being open on the Mondays school is not in session.
While most of the school weeks would become four-day weeks, Mingus also explained that a total of seven, five-day school weeks have been included into the calendar due to things like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring breaks. Nine snow days and nine days of professional learning for teachers have also been scheduled into the amended calendar to take place on Mondays.
The amended calendar, additional four-day school week facts and research and a video recording of the Dec. 3 public meeting can all be found at forsythpanthers.org.