The El Dorado Springs R-II school board met in regular session on Thursday, Jan. 14, with new items on the agenda, as well as a discussion over the possibility of implementing a four-day school week.
In the beginning of open session, R-II superintendent Heath Oates provided a COVID-19 status update to the board, noting as of the morning of Thursday, Jan. 14, 36 students were under full quarantine and 22 students were under modified quarantine; four students and two staff members were infected with COVID-19, as well as one staff member quarantined.
Next on the agenda, Oates provided information on employee benefits and CARES Act leave expiration, saying the deadline on paid sick leave is extended for two weeks for employees who meet one of the qualifying conditions.
Oates said COVID-19 leave expired legally on Dec. 31, 2020, and was not renewed; Oates wanted to extend that benefit to employees who have not used COVID-19 leave. The board approved the motion 4-0.
The board then went on to review a proposed change to Policy C-140-P, which is the policy over public comments to the board, amending the policy for patrons to sign up for comments to 4 p.m. on the day of the school board meeting to sign up. The board approved the motion 4-0.
Additionally, the board discussed the purchase of a vehicle to replace a car that was wrecked. The insurance allows for a purchase of up to $20,000. The board approved the purchase 4-0.
FOUR-DAY SCHOOL WEEK
When the board had an initial discussion over the 2021-22 school year calendar, the possibility of four-day school weeks came up.
R-II president Josh Floyd said he personally was against the idea of implementing a four-day school week, but he was open to having conversation over the topic and wanted to hear from educators’ perspectives.
El Dorado Springs Middle School principal Brad Steward said he imagined the majority of staff would be proponents of five-day school weeks by “knowing that’s an extra day each week that our students get up here and get breakfast and lunch and different things.”
The flip side of the issue, Steward said, is how given that more and more school districts are implementing four-day school weeks, R-II is seeing a correlation of less applications for open positions.
“Schools around us — our size, maybe a little bigger or maybe a little smaller — are on that four-day week, and that has become rather appealing to people in the profession as far as teachers go,” Steward said.
Another R-II staffer in attendance at the board meeting told the board she previously worked for a four-day school week, and her former district’s biggest reasoning for changing to a four-day school week was that they could not get teachers to come to the district.
R-II assistant superintendent Theresa Christian said around two years ago, R-II created a community and staff survey to see how the district and its members would respond to a four-day school week; there was about a 70 percent response for both four-day and five-day options, she said.
All of the concerns people had, Christian said, were directed to student needs outside of school and not on the quality of education.
Oates said the leading researcher in the nation who studies four-day school weeks works at Missouri State University, and essentially, four-day school weeks typically see no change in student achievement, district finances and staff satisfaction.
Floyd mentioned one concern would be transportation costs, and Oates said bus companies do gauge districts who go with four-day weeks.
“That gives parents a day a week to schedule appointments for the orthodontist and all of those sorts of things,” Steward said.
Christian added that for parents who do not have a regular 9-5 job, “parents said it would be nice to have a day off where we have an actual weekend with my family.”
The topic was simply discussed and not voted on. After this initial discussion, the board voted to adjourn into closed session.