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Milwaukee school board member renews push to study school week changes

Posted at 10:27 PM, Mar 08, 2023

MILWAUKEE — A five-day school week is as classic as the peanut butter and jelly sandwich in your kid's lunch box, but that could be changing for Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students.

School board member Aisha Carr is renewing a push for a feasibility study to explore the idea of a modified school week. The resolution she's bringing forward at Thursday night's committee on Student Achievement and School innovation gives examples of a modified schedule like a four/five day school week, year-round schools, an early release day once a week, or a late start day once a week.

A similar proposal was also brought forward last year, but it didn't pass.

Angela Harris, the president of the Black Educators Caucus, hopes this year will be different.

"[The outcome] can look different and I think that's the point of the feasibility study right, is to just look what are the options that are possible and what are the resources we need to make that happen," she said.

Harris said the study will help inform the district on what works best, and she believes that some of the modified schedule options will be beneficial to teachers and students.

"I think about my students that are really struggling to read, if I could have that fifth day to pull those students and just work with them independently and not have to be focused on the entire class, we could really see some real academic gain beginning to happen," Harris said.

The resolution also points to teacher shortages, cost savings, and pandemic learning impacts as the reason for initiating the study.

School districts across the country have taken a similar route. In Missouri, more than a quarter of the district has implemented a 4-day work week. In Texas, the Crosby Independent School District, just outside of Houston, just voted to implement a 4-day week for next school year.

States with school districts that have implemented 4-day weeks

"We're coming out of COVID learning and what that has meant for their children and really being able to focus on specific needs and what they need to grow and be successful, I think any parent should want that," Harris said.

While many kids, and parents, are probably cheering at the idea of 3-day weekends every weekend, many parents likely don't have a 4-day work week to match that kind of school schedule leading to concerns about childcare.

"Parents hear 4-day school week and they're like what am I supposed to do that fifth day?" Harris said of parent concerns that were raised last year. "What I think parents really need to understand about a feasibility study is that another one of the aspects is to look at partnerships that the district can build to help assist with that 5th day," Harris said.

Examples she gave would look like expanding after-school-type services and partnerships with organizations like the Boys and Girls Club.

And, your kids could very well still be coming into school on that fifth day.

"Maybe not necessarily to work directly with their teacher. They might be coming in to receive guidance, support, or they might be coming in to see a mental health counselor or go to a conflict resolution class," Harris said.

Harris recommends you reach out to school board members about any thoughts or concerns your family may have.

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