Editor’s note: Last week, El Dorado Springs Superintendent Mark Koca gave patrons, students and staff the opportunity to voice their opinion on a four-day school week. In one day, the school received over 300 responses, Mr. Koca said, but he didn’t know how the votes were going. On Thursday, the Sun interviewed him to learn more about the four-day week proposal which some patrons have asked about. We will include the web site in this article so, if you have an opinion, you can vote yes or no. The voting deadline is Wednesday, Feb. 13, so the votes can be tabulated and reported to the School Board at its Thursday, Feb. 14, regular meeting:
Please understand that we are relatively neutral on this issue—we want to hear from staff, parents and patrons regarding this. We have created a survey for this purpose. Use this URL https://goo.gl/forms/QU18w4csDNUHIMfK2 to complete the survey online. Parents and patrons can obtain a hard copy of the survey to complete by contacting the Superintendent’s office during normal business hours at 417-876-3112 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate your feedback on this matter.
Mark Koca, Superintendent
4-day school week
Interview with Mark Koca
Q. Why are you considering a four-day school week?
“Given the number schools that we know have moved to the four-day week, those types are more popular with some of our younger staff members. And a lot of teachers are shopping by four-day week or five-day week when they send out their applications for jobs. I’ve heard this from a couple of different schools, they have gone to neighboring schools just because they were on a four-day week. My concern down the road is that we already have trouble getting people to apply to work here because of our location and if we pile on all our county schools are on a four-day week, it would make it even tougher.”
“That’s just a supposition on my part. I don’t know that has happened with recruits. But I think that is probably pretty much the case.”
Q. How would you pay the classified staff on a four-day week?
“Well, they are not paid very well. Maybe we could raise their rate of pay a little to cover when they are not here. Of course, that takes away from any cost savings you might have so you have to find middle ground there.”
Q. Would contracts have to be adjusted to go with a four-day week?
“Absolutely. As a matter of fact, when we bid transportation this last month, I asked them to bid on a four-day week and a five-day week so I would already have the numbers in front of me.”
Q. What has changed that permits a four-day school week? Losing one day (400 minutes) does not equal 30 minutes a day.
“The law has changed. In the past we were required to have school 1,044 hours and 170 days. Well, you take 170 days times the number of hours we are in session and you wind up with a lot more than 1,044. So the law has changed. The just say 1,044 hours in 146 days or 180 days. You think about it – I’m going to get penalized for any that I go over the 1,044 hours. So whether you go a four-day school week or a five-day, we’re still looking at a reduced school year by a few days next year. So, no, the 30 minutes a day does not make up for the loss of seven hours a week.”
“In my information I put out, I did not say anything about an extended school day. It may be that we leave it where it is and just go four-days.”
“So, it’s exploratory on my part. I thought it was time for the public to be heard. I think Dr. Christian said we have almost 300 responses on the survey in the first day. I don’t know which way they are headed yet. That’s a nice number for day one.”
Q. Where is the $100,000 cost savings from going to a four-day school week?
“Mostly from transportation. You save a little bit on transportation. You save a little bit on food service. You might save a tiny bit on utilities, but I don’t think it’s going to be very much at all.”
“If finance is the only reason, I’d say just keep doing what we’re going. Because don’t think that is a valid argument. There are some savings available, but they are not significant.”
Q. What would you do with the savings?
“I would roll it into some teacher pay because we are getting a little bit behind in that respect. We are a thousand to twelve hundred dollars on the teacher base behind a lot of the area schools.”
Q. What area schools are on a four-day week?
“Stockton in on a four-day week. Everton is on a four-day week. Several of the school in our conferene are going to a four-day week next year, I believe. Butler is looking at it just like we are right now. There are several between here and the Springfield area.”
Q. Would the four-day week have an impact on any future bond issues?
“The kind of depends on where your patrons are with it. Some places where it is very, very popular, it might help you. Some places where it is not as popular, it might hurt you.”
“I figure it’s going to be a while before we are in a position to ask the public for that anyway. I think the very earliest we could look at any kind of tax increase or no tax increase would be in 2023. Which is not as far off as it sounds.”
Q. How long has the four-day week been in existence? Who was the first to do it?
“I think in Southwest Missouri Everton was the first school to that actually went to a four-day week. It was triggered five or six years ago by a change in the law surroundinf school attendance. They relaxed some things there and some people took advantage of that.”
“This last year they relaxed it even further which has kinda put a lot of people on the path.”
Q. How has it affected attendance?
“Well, all I have is hearsay, Stockton said their attendance both students and faculty has been much better. It kinda stands to reason. Our number one day for bad attendance is Monday.”
Q. What about sporting events on Monday?
“We do quite a bit. JV football would still happen. Sports practice would still happen on Monday.”
“That’s one of the drawbacks. Parents would have to find a way to get their kids to athletic practice on Mondays.’
Q. Would going to a four-day week require a vote of the patrons?
“No, the school board sets the calendar.”
Q. How far ahead are we looking at this happening?
It’s not outside the realm of possibility if the survey is overwhelmingly in favor, we could still get it done for next year. I’m kinda holding some of my contracts at bay until we get a decision. Personally, I’d rather take a year to do it and do it right and look at the year after next. But, again, that’s going to depend on what our survey comes back looking like.”
Q. When will be survey be over?
“I think we were going to give it two weeks. We have a board meeting on Feb. 14. I want to be able to report to them what we’re doing.”
Q. You say you are neutral?
“Yes. My only real concern – I think we can get the job done in four-days, we can get the job done in five-days. The biggest concern I have is teacher recruitment and retention.”
Q. And the kids won’t get fed one day?
“Yes, that is a secondary issue. Next year is going to be kind of a change there, too. We are not going to qualify for any kind of universal free meals next year. I’ve milked this cow until she’s dry. There’s no way for me to make it any different. The numbers are what the numbers are. I probably held it a year longer than I should have. I can’t look at losing $30,000 a year on school lunches. That’s just not viable.”
Q. Anything else you want people to know?
“Don’t get excited. We’re not jumping off a cliff with this. We truly do want to hear what people’s opinions are. We want to hear from as many people as possible. The more people respond, the better we will feel about the data.”