Based on staff and community input, Wilcox Schools Superintendent Steve Smith recommended Tuesday at the regular Board of Education meeting that the system continue the four-day school week during the 2013-2014 year.
Board members postponed a final decision, however, until their February meeting. Smith presented a summary of results from polling staff, parents and others in the community about their choice of calendars as well as a list of pros and cons for the four-day week.
Of about 700 respondents, 470 or 67% favored continuation of the four-day week, the superintendent said. Some 79% of the school staff respondents chose the four-day option.
In addition to community support, Smith said the four-day week saves money, results in fewer discipline referrals, and higher student and teacher attendance. Furthermore, it helps attract employees to the county and allows for a more effective after-school remediation and enrichment program.
On the negative side, some parents have complained that the school day is too long for young children. It's also more tiring for teachers of young children, Smith said. There are day care issues associated with one day out of school during the week and more opportunities for kids to get into trouble.
Full funding for the PASS (Patriot Academy for Student Success) which operates on Mondays and after school Tuesday through Thursday will end this year, so some people argue there's no longer a reason not to have regular classes on Monday.
Smith said he thinks the 21st century program (PASS) will be funded at some level, but it won't be nearly as much as the past three years. It could be fully reinstated at some point in the future, he added.
Because Wilcox County High School has been identified as a "focus" school, 60 hours of increased learning time (ILT) have been added to the schedule for this school year, and those hours will be utilized on Mondays.
Assistant Superintendent Julie Childers said 216 students (over 50% of the total) came to the first session. They rotated through four academic classes and one elective and had some different learning experiences, she said.
Students who do not attend the extra Monday classes will be counted absent from school, Smith said. If they have jobs, however, their employer may request that they be allowed to work in lieu of attending the special classes.
A group of local citizens has formed a board and is anxious to offer a Christian Learning Center modeled after the ones that exist in two other Georgia counties off campus, Smith said. The board wants to adopt a curriculum and create a high school and middle school class with 20 students each. Wilcox County students could choose these class as electives.
Board of Education members authorized the learning center board to proceed with its plans. Classes will meet at the Rochelle First Baptist Church. How the students will be transported back and forth has not been fully determined yet, but the church has a small bus that possibly could be used.
"This can only help our students," remarked BOE member William Dozier.
In other business, the BOE:
• Agreed to purchase an 18' x 21' x 9' metal building from Carport Depot at a cost of $2,655 to store athletic equipment at the high school. Smith said Principal Chad Davis wants to buy two such buildings, however, the second one will be larger so a lawnmower and other larger equipment can be stored there. He will use school funds to purchase the larger building which will cost $4,490 from the same company.
• Will permit Andrew Benjamin to use the high school gym for a fundraiser this spring. Davis already has said he has no problem with Benjamin using the facility.
• Re-elected Jill McDuffie to serve as chairman and Dozier as vice chairman.
• Will consider allowing the Rochelle United Methodist Church to use the middle school gym for a contemporary worship service once a month on Sunday. Smith said the minister wants to reach out to all ages and all races in the community, and she feels that will work better outside the church building.
• Heard from Smith that with 50% of the school year completed, expenses are at 46.8% of budget. Local revenue is coming in steadily, he said, and at this point, he believes the fund balance at the end of this fiscal year will be better than previously anticipated.