BOGALUSA, La. — When a new school year begins in Bogalusa this August, school bells won’t ring as much.
“We’re just excited about the changes,” said the school district’s supervisor of federal programs, Shelley Gill.
Last month the school board approved a four-day week for the district’s roughly 1,500 students and 300 employees. Classes will be Monday through Thursday instead of Monday through Friday.
“It all started with COVID. When we were shut down, people didn’t go back to work,” said the district’s director of finance Deloris Walker.
School leaders say the COVID pandemic made the district rethink efforts to attract certified teachers while fighting academic challenges and absenteeism at the district’s three schools.
“We’ve got to think out of the box,” said the district’s director of human resources, Karla McGehee. “We’ve got to do something to get some certified teachers to come to Bogalusa.”
After a grant-funded study last fall, the school district held community meetings and sent out surveys to parents, teachers, and staff. Seventy percent favored a four-day week.
“Only 19 percent of our faculty and families wanted a traditional calendar, and only 11 percent were looking at a year-round calendar,” Gill said.
All four school days will be extended by 53 minutes. Fridays will be available for things like field trips, tutoring, and mental health programs. Extra days will be added to the beginning and end of the academic year. Summers will be shortened to eight weeks.
“A big part of it is improving academics, not having the learning loss that you have over long periods of time when they’re off,” Gill said.
Because the state goes by instructional minutes and not days, students will still meet academic requirements.
“So, we’re putting in the same number of minutes that we would be if we were here five days,” Walker said.
School leaders know there will be some challenges.
“You have to be careful that you keep students engaged for that long a period of time because they do get tired,” McGehee said.
Despite challenges, school leaders say the goal of getting teachers to apply is already happening.
“I don’t know if it’s the four-day week or what it is, but it doesn’t matter, but I think the four-day week has enticed them to come try out Bogalusa."
School leaders expect this change will save the district money, which can be invested back into the schools. At least ten Louisiana school districts will use this four-day model next school year. Some have been using it already.
The district is offering resources to help parents apply for childcare assistance programs. The district is also working with daycares and churches to come up with additional programs.
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