The Stewart County School Board approved a plan this month to go to a four-day school week starting this fall.
The goal is to save money but opponents worry the 500 impacted students will lose too many benefits of going to school.
Supporters say beyond the projected $90,000 cost savings, they can cite new research that suggests an abbreviated school week may increase test scores.
But opponents of the four-day week worry about the number of kids from the poorest county in the state missing a day of free meals at school. They are also concerned about the pressure it will put on parents to find child care.
Superintendant Floyd Fort is looking to the community for help filling in those gaps:
“We’re hoping through our faith based community to get a grant to serve meals on Mondays for students who choose to take them. One thing that the board of education is looking at is some way to provide a start, a jump start to that, so our parents that work, who need daycare, they’d have a place for their child.”
The School Board surveyed parents, employees and community members and 63% agreed or were neutral about the change.
Proponents of the change cite a recent study by Georgia State University. It shows that math and reading test scores rose in rural Colorado school systems that shifted to a four-day week.
Author Mary Beth Walker says the data didn’t account for the reason behind the boosted test scores, but she has some theories:
“It’s possible that attendance improved and we thought it also might be that the teachers were really pleased with that schedule and it increased productivity.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are not enough comprehensive studies to show that a four-day school week is more productive than a traditional five-day week.