Pearsall, Dilley schools switch to shortened week
If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
BOARDS HOPE CHANGE ATTRACTS TEACHERS
Pearsall and Dilley school district boards have approved campuses switching to a four-and-a-half day week for the 2023-24 academic year.
The move has been made as part of an effort to attract and retain high-quality teachers, according to administrators.
Districts across the state have been struggling with teacher retention, many since the coronavirus pandemic.
Pearsall ISD board members heard on Wednesday, April 19, from Special Programs Director Linda Chavera, who said district administrators went through a rigorous process that involved research and surveys to find educators.
“We did research on what was going on in this area and of course what the needs are for the district,” Chavera said during her presentation. “Commissioner Mike Morath created a teacher task force for teacher retention and recruitment.”
Chavera added that the district worked with the district education’s improvement committee [DEIC] to draft three proposed calendars for the upcoming academic year.
“Working with the DEIC and speaking with Superintendent Nobert Rodriguez and getting input, we drafted three options,” Chavera said. “A traditional, innovative one calendar, and then we had a second innovative calendar. We are a district of innovation. We did a survey of parents and the community; only thirty-six people participated in the first survey. So when you look at the community as whole, there is not a lot of interest.”
School administration and the DEIC met again and used the draft to create two new calendar proposals that were designed to focus on keeping educators interested in remaining employed at the district.
According to the director, a second survey was conducted that included school district personnel, parents and the DEIC, which received 310 responses with a strong support for the four-and-a-half-day school week.
Texas lawmakers passed a bill in 2015 which changed how classroom instruction is timed. Districts no longer have to provide 180 days of instruction, but instead a minimum of 75,600 minutes. The legislation reportedly offers districts more flexibility in how to schedule instruction.
School board members quizzed Chavera over concerns from community members who work on Fridays and will need childcare.
“The ACE program… We do not know an answer yet as far as ACE is concerned,” Chavera said in response to board members asking if the after-school program would continue next year. “We are looking at options for those children who may need to stay longer because their parents work.”
PISD Supt. Rodriguez spoke following a request from board members to hear his thoughts regarding the proposed change in the upcoming school year.
“We put a lot of focus on teacher retention,” the superintendent said. “One school up north about twenty miles went four days, another sixty miles away went four days. We are trying to help our kids and focus on intervention for Fridays. Try to help our academics but trying to support our teachers and staff and give them that half-day break. Maybe they can take that half day for medical visits and stuff instead of taking a personal day. I think the refresher part on Friday afternoons will help us recruit teachers.”
Natalia ISD adopted a four-day school week in early April, becoming the third in Education Service Center Region 20 to do so.
“Right now there is a bill trying to do away with four-day weeks,” Dr. Rodriguez said. “Law makers feel it will take teachers away from the bigger cities. We are in compliance and this will allow for TEA to fund summer school and provide two meals a day for our students on Friday which I feel is very important and gives our teachers a break.”
Board members passed the four-and-a-half day school week with a unanimous vote.
Dilley ISD approved the same calendar model as Pearsall ISD in March after a survey was taken by 162 employees, 187 students and 284 parents and showed 91.8 percent supported a shorter school week.