Single parents who’ve been stressing over what they’ll do about childcare when the new four day school week takes effect in August will be happy to hear this news: Marion County Schools Superintendent Jim Yancey has cancelled the eight town hall meetings scheduled to take place later this month and in February.
The first question to come to everyone’s lips is: Why? It’s really very simple: The Marion County School Board is reconsidering the traditional five day school week.
Last June, the board approved by a 4-1 vote the four day school week. Promoted as a budget-cutting measure that would save the school district $4.2 million, this was the most recent step taken to cut the district’s budget. Over the last five years, the district has had to cut $51 million from the operating budget.
However, what the board claims to have not known when they approved this new schedule was that if they switched to a four day week, Florida’s Department of Education would not continue to fund the transportation costs as they have in the past. The removal of one day per week, a total of 36 days over the course of the roughly ten month school year, would have resulted in the DoE cutting $1.8 million from the transportation budget. One must wonder, though, how the board could not have been aware of this. It is common sense that when you have a budget based on very specific things, such as a 180 day school year with a five day school week, making such a drastic change to those things is going to result in a drastic change to that budget.
At this time, the approved four day week is still the calendar for the 2012-13 school year. It will continue to be the plan for next year until the board makes a final decision. When will that happen?
The board has decided to re-visit the traditional five day school calendar at their February 14th agenda. If they choose to revise the calendar, there will be a final vote on the revisions on February 28th.
If the board votes to revert back to the traditional five day school week, this will be a huge relief to many, particularly single parents. The change to a four day school week would have left many parents of elementary aged students in a very tight spot, having to find childcare for that extra day off from school, in addition to paying for regular after school care. Whether that extra cost was a mere $10 or an entire week’s worth of childcare wouldn’t matter; it would still be a hardship for many, even in a two parent home.
So is there anything you can do to encourage the school board to revert back to the traditional five day school week? You can’t force them to change their minds, but you can certainly make your feelings known. Attend one of the twice monthly school board meetings and work sessions to let them know you don’t want the four day school week. If you have budget-cutting suggestions, bring those, too. While the board and district may not be actively trying to harm your child’s education, they aren’t necessarily putting the students first either. That’s your job as a parent. If you have ideas to cut the budge while still providing a decent education, make these ideas known. Don’t sit back, thinking there’s nothing you can do to change this. You can change this. Do what the district always tells us to do: Be there for your kids.