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Mountain Pine approves 4-day school week for this fall

by Brandon Smith | April 1, 2023 at 4:03 a.m.
The Mountain Pine School sign is shown in early March in front of the high school campus. - File photo by Lance Porter of The Sentinel-Record

MOUNTAIN PINE -- The Mountain Pine School Board voted to adopt a four-day school week calendar for the 2023-2024 school year during its regular monthly meeting Thursday night.

The move makes Mountain Pine the second public school district in Garland County to adopt a four-day schedule. Like Cutter Morning Star, the district will take Mondays off and lengthen its day by about an hour.

Mountain Pine will keep its present start time of 7:45 a.m., but lengthen its end time to 4:07 p.m. While the school year calendar will remain largely the same, the school will have 142 instructional days instead of the traditional 178.

The board approved the motion 4-1, with board member Clayton Miller voting no due to concerns over student test scores. School Superintendent Bobby Applegate noted that if test scores did go down, they would be required to go back to traditional at the end of the year.

He said in early March the district's main goal for considering the switch was to increase student attendance and teacher attendance.

The chair of the district's Personnel Policies Committee, Nichole Lawrence, said when visiting with other schools that made the switch, she heard no complaints.

"I talked to a (Cutter Morning Star) school board member and they said their scores have gone up and things have been looking good," she said.

She said she also spoke with a principal in the England School District who told her in a recent staff survey, only two said they did not like the four-day week.

"The PPC sent out a Google survey to the staff and we just wanted to see their interest in if we wanted to switch from traditional to a four-day school week, and a four-day school week was most favored," she said. "Then we started reaching out to other school districts that we knew were already four-day -- like Cutter, England, Bismarck, and Bigelow (East End School District) -- and we were able to ask questions to see how the week was working for them."

The committee sent that information back out to the staff, she noted, who voted over 70% in favor of the switch.

"So then we met again and we made a survey to send out to the parents. We had 60.6% respond from the elementary school and 39.4% respond from high school, with 55.8% voting for four-day," she said.

According to Arkansas law, schools may adopt the four-day weekly calendar as long as they meet the minimum 1,068 hours of instructional time. Mountain Pine, which has 618 students as of Thursday, will be among nearly 30 other districts throughout the state to adopt the four-day week.

Board President Michael Palmer said one advantage he has heard from talking with teachers is they will have extra time in each class for instruction and helping students with homework, instead of students "going home blindly." The open Monday will also allow students and teachers to make doctor and dentist appointments more easily.

He said, in speaking with the Kirby School District, that its attendance has increased substantially.

The district will continue to offer its 21st Century Community Learning Center after-school program half a day on Mondays.

Print Headline: Mountain Pine approves 4-day school week for this fall


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