Aurora R-8 to go to four-day school week

By: 
Steve Chapman

Houn’s will have Fridays off starting next school year
Students in the Aurora R-8 School District will attend class one less day a week, according to a bulletin posted on the district’s website, dated Tuesday, Feb. 4. Starting with the 2020-2021 academic year, Aurora students will attend school four days a week. The academic calendar, which encompasses the four-day school week, was approved by the Aurora R-8 School Board on Monday, Feb. 3.
Interestingly enough, while the students will attend school one day less per week, they will spend more hours in the classroom. Redus stated the students will spend 1,089.9 hours in class next year.
“The planned … hours will … surpass the total number of hours students will attend during the 2019-2020 school year,” Redus stated in the bulletin. “For the current school year, students in grades kindergarten through sixth are scheduled to attend 1,058.8 hours. Students in grades seventh through twelfth attend 1,076.2 hours.”

 Next year, students will attend school for an extra 40 minutes per day. Currently, students attend school from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at Pate Early Childhood Center, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Robinson Elementary/Intermediate and from 7:55 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the junior high and high schools. In the four-day school week, students at Pate will arrive at 8:05 a.m. and leave at 3:15 p.m., while students at Robinson, the junior high and high schools will arrive at 7:50 a.m. and leave at 3:30 p.m. The school year will continue to be 150 days; the 2020-2021 school year begins on Aug. 24, 2020 and end May 27, 2021. Redus said there are many benefits to switching to a four-day school week, including “increase in student attendance; decrease in student behavior referrals resulting in better engagement; increase in teacher recruitment and retention; decrease in the need for substitute teachers due to absences; and extended professional development time to construct effective instructional activities and review data pertaining to student achievement.”
There are also some concerns associated with switching to a four-day week, including: how parents who work during the school day will find childcare for their younger children, how longer days will affect primary-aged students, whether at-risk students will have difficulty with retaining information during a longer school day, and “community norms and traditions.” However, in a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the change in schedule Redus said the positive effects of a four-day week will exceed any drawbacks.
“Concerns were discussed regarding the four-day school week; however, the benefits regarding such an implementation are believed to outweigh the negatives,” Redus stated in the FAQ.  
The new four-day schedule will be Monday through Thursday. Redus said in the FAQ that Friday was the most logical day to take off the schedule.
“Fridays will be used as the off day to allow for the most consistent schedule based on the current school week,” he said. “Since Aurora R-VIII utilizes professional development time on Friday afternoons with a dismissal time of 12:15 p.m., parents already make plans for the afternoon schedule.  By having Friday as the off day, parents will be required to find childcare for only half a day instead of a full day.  This is also a great opportunity to increase professional learning activities by extending the Friday to a full day instead of a half day.”
Redus said the district will work to provide childcare if “there is a substantial need.”
“The YMCA currently provides a half-day option and there is a possibility that this could be lengthened to full-day care,” he said. “There will be no transportation provided and the childcare will be for lower grade students.”
While instruction will only be four days a week, Redus said student athletes will still meet for practice on Fridays.
Redus said the idea of Aurora going to a four-day week is not new; it was first proposed during the 2016-17 school year.
“At that time, very few districts had implemented the change and the board did not believe enough data was present regarding the initiative,” he said. “Since that time, 61 school districts are implementing the four-day school week, (and) 30 of these are considered to be in the southwest Missouri area. Another 25 districts have approved or are expected to move to the configuration for the 2020-2021 school year.”  

Further information about the four-day school week can be found on the Aurora R-8 website, located at: www.aurorar8.org/o/aurora-r8-school-district. Under the “News” section, click on the link “Approval of 2020-2021 Calendar-February 3, 2020 Board Meeting.”
 

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