Four-day school week set for East End district

Sonja Keith

In addition to new school supplies and school clothes for the fall semester, there will be a new schedule for students and faculty/staff in the East End School District in Perry County.

According to Superintendent Lori Edgin, the district will be implementing a four-day school week. Edgin, who is in her second year as superintendent, said there are about 615 students in the district.

“The four-day school week has been gaining momentum across the nation over the last few years,” she said. “Each time a school transitioned to a four-day week, it was often a topic of conversation among our parents, teachers and students. The topic gained more recognition locally when the Kirby School District (Pike County) moved to a four-day week during the 2019-2020 school year. Kirby school leaders shared their positive experiences and benefits that they noticed with us, and it led us to consider this change even more.”

Edgin said a lot of work went into the decision, which was not taken lightly. Among the research, the district conducted a preliminary survey of staff, students and parents. “With all three groups responding with a majority in favor of the change, our district continued to research the option and how it has impacted other districts who currently utilize the four-day week.”  

Students in the East End School District in Perry County will have a four-day school week beginning in August.

The research included district leaders traveling to Kirby, where they had an opportunity to learn more about implementation. “Upon returning from the site visit, a community meeting was scheduled to offer an opportunity for everyone to ask questions, hear more information about the proposal and share concerns,” Edgin said. “Additionally, a second survey was posted where any stakeholder could submit questions or concerns regarding the four-day week.”  

On Feb. 11, about 100 attended a community meeting at Bigelow High School. “A slideshow outlined the details for implementing a four-day week, including schedule, calendar, concerns and solutions.” It also highlighted the positive aspects of the proposed change. Those attending had an opportunity to ask questions, offer comments and voice concerns, which school officials addressed.

When the school district’s board of education met Feb. 18, members voted 5-0 in favor of the four-day week (Tuesday-Friday), effective with the 2020-21 school year. “The change required no special approval from the state. The only requirement included ensuring the same amount of instructional minutes are met that are required in a traditional five-day week.”

The schedule for the new school year, which begins Thursday, Aug 13:  

Bigelow High School – Begin at 7:40 a.m. and end at 3:55 p.m.

Anne Watson Elementary – Begin at 7:45 a.m. and end at 3:55 p.m.  

We feel there are numerous benefits to this change, including staff recruitment and retention, increase in school climate, morale and culture, improved attendance by both students and staff, and financial savings due to less utility and fuel usage.” The new schedule will also mean less substitute usage and homework. 

The district also anticipates more family time, less discipline issues, a decreased dropout rate and job opportunities for older students. It may also eliminate students having to miss school for appointments. The district also anticipates a higher quantity of applicants and increased enrollment. “The off day provides staff additional time for professional development and training without missing class time.”  

Edgin said the district has outlined some of the anticipated challenges, including possible attention problems for younger students, later arrival time at home for afternoon bus routes and childcare concerns for working families. Fewer meals for students in homes of need were also considered. 

“As a district, we addressed each concern and shared a solution for each. At our elementary, recess times will be restructured so breaks are spread out throughout the day and physical activity during instruction will increase. 

“More parents will be able to pick their students up from school; therefore, some bus routes could be shorter. Additionally, we are re-evaluating our current routes to make them as efficient as possible. Our hope is that more parents will be home from work when kids arrive home in the afternoons, so there may not be a need for childcare in some cases.” 

To address the concern for missing meals, additional food items will be sent home with students through the backpack program. There will also be a daily afternoon snack served to all students free of charge.  

“EESD is innovative and individualized when it comes to our students’ education. We look forward to experiencing this change and seeing the benefits it produces for our students, staff and community,” said Edgin. 

For more information, visit eastendpanthers.com/263321_2.