August 02, 2007
Four day school week on hold for now

The Lancaster ISD, which had petitioned the Texas Education Agency for a waiver to allow a four day school week, has backed off that request, at least for now.

Superintendent Larry Lewis said Tuesday he withdrew the waiver application because school starts in less than a month and the four-day schedule would conflict with existing employee contracts.

Robert Scott, acting Texas Education Agency commissioner, said he didn't have enough information from Lancaster to say whether he would have approved the one-year pilot program. He said he has directed his staff to review the district's finances, which have come under scrutiny since the proposal was announced.

While some parents said they might support the schedule if given time to digest it, many parents who had vehemently opposed it said Tuesday that they were thrilled the waiver was withdrawn.

Dr. Lewis said that complaints from parents did not contribute to his decision and that he believes that with another year to review his proposal, the community and the TEA would support it.

"I think we're going to get great community buy-in...," Dr. Lewis said. "We would have never brought it if we thought [TEA] wasn't going to approve it. We are almost 100 percent certain that they're going to approve it."


Some parents said they would consider supporting the plan - which called for longer school days Monday through Thursday, and Fridays off - if the district took more time to review it.

The school board voted 5-1 to seek the TEA waiver two weeks ago, just four days after the plan was proposed by a staff member. Dr. Lewis presented the public with three articles about four-day school weeks that he found online. Four-day schedules are extremely rare, but most commonly found in small, rural districts.

"I don't think that it's a bad plan, just poorly timed," said Kim Dotson, whose son will be a senior this year.

But others said they doubted that the community would ever support it. Many parents were upset about having to pay for day care on Fridays; others feared their unsupervised teenagers would get into trouble.

"The Friday day-care situation is really going to be a major player in this," said Maria Esparza, president of the Lancaster Council of PTAs. "There are just going to be too many things playing into it. I honestly just don't see the parents going for it."

Dr. Lewis said he plans to survey the community on the proposal. He said he would solicit volunteers from community groups, the school board and schools for a "blue ribbon" committee to study the plan.

"We haven't fleshed it out yet, but all segments of the community will be represented - those who had issues with it vs. those who supported it," Dr. Lewis said.

I was skeptical when I first heard about this, and I remain so now. That said, if the school district can put together a plan that has community support and addresses the obvious questions about effectiveness and child care on Fridays, then I think they at least deserve a full hearing from the TEA. I have my doubts, but let's give them a chance to prove me wrong.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 02, 2007 to The great state of Texas