Academy ISD approves four-day school week, sparking concerns among parents

The district’s superintendent touts teacher retention as the main driver behind the decision
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 5:05 PM CST
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LITTLE-RIVER ACADEMY, Texas (KWTX) - After a unanimous vote at Wednesday’s school board meeting, Academy ISD has opted for a four-day instructional week in the 2023-2024 school year.

The district’s superintendent, Billy Harlan, touts teacher retention and recruitment as the main driver behind the decision.

“Several of our class sizes are beyond the state requirement of 22 to one,” Harlan, Academy ISD’s superintendent, told KWTX. “So it’s a matter of, ‘Where do the other teachers come from?’ and the applicants just aren’t there. So we thought maybe we could attract some people that would want to go to this type of model, to come teach in our district.”

Harlan says more teachers means smaller class sizes, and ultimately, increased academic achievement.

“We’re committed to having smaller class sizes because that’s just better for education, and potentially this will help us do that,” Harlan said.

But not everyone agrees.

One Academy ISD parent says this decision didn’t take all families into account.

“I think it was a little over 700 students that were on free or reduced lunches, and school bus riders,” Caitlyn Coleman, a mother of a 2nd grader at Academy ISD, said. “So those are the ones with the families that are gonna be impacted the most.”

A major concern of Coleman’s is the price of daycare that will now be needed for young students whose parents work on Fridays.

“The cost of living is rising astronomically,” Coleman told KWTX. “You can’t really expect someone to pull another several hundred dollars out of their pocket when they’re paying four to five dollars for milk.”

The district says the solution to this is offering ten recreational ‘camp’ days parents can use throughout the school year.

“It will be a recreational, instructional type model, very similar to what a boys and girls club would offer,” Harlan said. “That way it’s not school. As a student, I’m not under the pressure of school, and as a parent, my kid is in a safe place.”

But critics, like Coleman, say the schedule for the camp is just a proposal, and not something that’s set in stone.

“Our superintendent has proposed the possibility of having ten days of an educational camp for those Fridays off,” Coleman said. “But he’s literally said in the last meeting there’s nothing set in place.”