By Mike Wallace
A unanimous decision by the Kirby Public Schools Board of Directors in March of this year has led the Trojans to a four day school week beginning Aug. 4 with teacher in-service days.
After months of study, talking with school districts in surrounding states and discussions with the Arkansas Department of Education personnel, the Kirby District held a public meeting in March. After that meeting, the school board voted to try the four-day academic week for the 2019-2020 term.
The major thrust of the new system is to save money. There will be less maintenance costs on the buildings and in the bus shop, less wear and tear on the district’s buses, less driver costs, less cafeteria expenses and a reduction in utility costs.
In a discussion with Superintendent Pike Palmer on Friday, July 26, he said the bus drivers have had the opportunity through the summer months to work at the school in repairing things and normal maintenance for make up for the loss of one day’s pay per week over the new term.
Kirby’s administration has talked with more than a dozen schools around the country about expanding the time per day for the students and shortening the number of days per week. These question and answer discussions were with districts the size of Kirby up through a Colorado district with 20,000 students.
Most did experience some very minor problems until the students and teachers settled into the routine. The main question each of those districts handled was what to do with the K-5th students on which ever day the district did not hold school.
Each one said the parents worked out their individual problems, and after a month or so, everything was running smoothly.
Superintendent Palmer said the Kirby District took two community wide surveys about switching to the four-day schedule. One survey showed an 85 percent approval rating for the switch. The other showed an 82 percent approval.
Palmer also stated that one of the original questions was on how to handle the Pre K level students. Since those students receive financial assistance from state and federal monies, the Department of Education had to approve the same time schedule each day for Pre K as the K-12.
The new Kirby schedule will be Monday through Thursday, from 7:55 through 4:10. They will normally have Friday’s off. There will be some weeks the Trojan students will take off Mondays due to federal holidays like Labor Day on September 2, Martin Luther King Day on January 20 and President’s Day on February 17. The students will attend school Tuesday through Friday on those three weeks.
The first day of school will be Tuesday, Aug. 13, and will end the term on Thursday, May 14, 2020.
Palmer stated that the State of Arkansas requires each student receive 360 minutes of academic instruction per day. Kirby already was at 380 minutes per day. The district time schedule of 7:55 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. will add 90 minutes to the time students are in class. Since Kirby was already at 380, it required the district to add just 70 minutes per day.