MILWAUKEE — A town hall exploring the possibility of a four-day school week for Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students was held Wednesday.
Parents and stakeholders weighed in about the effects of giving kids an extra day for extended learning opportunities. It is a proposal started by board member Aisha Carr.
"It's really just rethinking how we educate," Carr said.
Carr is proposing MPS conduct a feasibility study to consider a new school week.
Her resolution outlines this plan: four days of academic instruction, each day 50 minutes longer. The fifth day would be for students to get mental health help and time for internships or community programs. It would also provide prep time for teachers.
"So no time off school, all five days are mandatory as it is now, but rethinking how do we develop the capacities of children," Carr said.
Several parents turned out to Carr's town hall Wednesday night.
"A whole day focussed on bettering a child as a whole, focussed on assisting the teachers with their education and they don't have to spill over into their home life to get their planning together," said Elizabeth Brown.
"I think this fifth day is very critical because what's happening right now is clearly not working," said LaShawnda Wilkins. "It's been a journey watching the struggles of the emotional things the kids experience in school and sometimes I think just having a breather can do so much."
"If it's only four days, that gives them time where they can work part time, or if they do have mental health issues, they can get the assistance they need,” said Kristin Birts, an MPS parent.
The fifth day would be a mandatory day dedicated to professional development, extended learning opportunities or mental health services.
"They really do need that because it's too much going on,” said parent Laquita Kazee.
If implemented, MPS could be the first district in the state to go to a four-day school schedule.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 560 districts in 25 other states utilize the schedule, but not Wisconsin.
The state's Department of Public Instruction says it does not track that information from districts.
"In school, there's only so much they can learn, and they don't have time to actually execute their life skills,” said Adjoua Anaky, aunt of two MPS students.
A 2021 study by the Rand Corporation found pros and cons of a four-day week. It said the shortened weeks can help districts with competitive recruitment and retention.
It also found student achievement did not grow as fast compared to five-day schedules.
"We want to make sure that individuals have an opportunity to express their concerns and talk about creative things that can be done,” said MPS Superintendent Dr. Keith Posley.
Parents who spoke with TMJ4 News Wednesday believe the best analysis will come from the kids handling the schedule themselves.
"Get an idea of what the kids want because we can ask the parents, but the kids may want something different,” Birts said.
A board committee will consider the study at a meeting next week. It would still need full board approval before moving forward.