The decision we made last week concerning the 4-day school schedule was very
challenging, and one that we did not take lightly. The day before the board meeting, we analyzed the available data and carefully weighed feedback received from the community. In doing so, we acknowledged the numerous advantages and disadvantages associated with the proposed change.
On the positive side, we recognized the potential benefits of improved teacher recruitment and retention and enhanced teacher morale through a better work-life balance. From a survey, we attempted to gather interest and input from school personnel, students, parents, and community members. We had over 1622 respondents which did not represent the total number of stakeholders in our community. While the survey provided valuable information, knowing that 54% of our student population is Hispanic and only 24% of our survey respondents were Hispanic, we concluded that the survey numbers were not an accurate representation of our population.
We also considered the drawbacks, which include concerns about equity for lower-income families, potential food insecurities, extended school days for younger learners, childcare for families with working caregivers, one less day of instruction for our dual immersion students, reduced hours and pay for certain classified staff members, and a day without educational services for our most at-risk populations. Some of our most vulnerable students include our growing special needs population, the 100-plus students currently experiencing homelessness, and the 260 current migrant students in our schools. We have many English language learners, 1,017 students as of January 2024, who need consistent, regular interactions to master essential concepts. This is more than we have ever had before and constitutes ¼ of our overall student population. We struggled to find any significant evidence that achievement improved with a 4-day school schedule.
After a thorough assessment of all these factors, we concluded individually and collectively that implementing a 4-day schedule is not currently in the best interest of the students in the Jerome School District. This decision was incredibly difficult, but due to the unique needs of our community, the board feels that the decision to stay five days was made in the best interests of all students.
We also acknowledge that 185 out of 260 certified staff (71%) responded to the survey of which 80% were in favor of a 4-day. We recognize that teachers do not feel like they are being heard, feel a lack of support, that they are being asked to do more and be more, and that they are seeing increased behaviors that make it hard to teach in the classroom, not to mention that teachers in Idaho on average are underpaid. We directed our district administration to work together with our teachers to help find remedies to school issues and work/life balance. We encouraged district staff to explore opportunities to adjust the calendar, which could involve additional days off, and find other creative solutions to help increase teacher support and morale.
Once again, we want to extend our deep gratitude for your continued engagement and commitment to our community's education. As we move forward, we are optimistic that we can work together to find meaningful solutions.
The Jerome School District Board of Trustees