Sunday, April 22, 2018
Education

Parents raise concerns over four-day school week

DADE CITY — Elizabeth Beagle came to Pasco Middle School on Thursday evening with one thought in mind: Her opposition to a four-day school week.

"I'm against it," said Beagle, who has children in Zephyrhills High and Woodland Elementary schools. "I have a junior in AP classes. She does virtual school, she's in athletics. Her day is long enough."

A forum on the subject drew about 70 residents, most of whom shared their reservations with the idea of having children attend school for fewer, longer days. The concept is in play because School Board member Steve Luikart pressed for a task force to explore it as a way to cut expenses as the district's revenue shrinks.

District finance officials have projected a loss of $22 million in state funding for 2012-13, not including $7 million of added costs to meet class size plus a fine of at least $1 million for failing to meet class size requirements this year.

"Please keep in mind it's only one option," Luikart told the audience as he opened the 90-minute forum.

Another possibility could be to cut 465 noninstructional positions and move on, he said. "That's not acceptable. … We have to look at every dime and how we use it."

One by one, speakers rose to offer their views.

Carlos Saenz of Land O'Lakes, whose child attends Oakstead Elementary, said the School Board would do better to explore privatization of nonessential, noninstructional services to effect real savings, rather than tinker around the edges with a four-day plan.

Debbie Smith, a grandmother and a Pasco High food services manager, questioned what would happen to the growing number of poor students who rely on schools for their daily meals if the schools closed an additional day each week. Kim Cicanese, whose daughter attends Pasco Middle, worried about leaving children at home unattended.

"In middle school they're forming a lot of peer pressure," Cicanese said. "If we are a parent that has to go to work … we're encouraging computer use that might not be there. Here comes TV time, here comes unmonitored activity at home. It's not 1942. They can't just go out and play, and in the real world they're not going to sit and read a book."

"Having sex! That's the bottom line," one woman shouted from the back of the room.

To each of these comments, Luikart gave a similar response: Look for more details in the final report that goes to the School Board in March.

"I'm not going to sit here and give you that information right now," he told people who asked about the possibility of increased juvenile delinquency. "That's just a piece of it."

That frustrated people who came to have a conversation.

"I don't want to read the final report," shouted Keith Poot, whose grandson attends Centennial Middle. "This is not good for the kids. … I don't want this program."

Jason Green, who has children in elementary, middle and high school in Dade City, complained that it seemed the crowd was not able to comment in an informed manner.

"A four-day school week may be good. But I don't have any information on that," Green told Luikart during the session. "We're being asked to make a decision on nothing."

Luikart later explained that he didn't come to the session to give people information, but rather to collect input.

"I understand some of the their frustration. Believe me," he said. "But we're gathering information. … If we don't have these forums and then the board makes a decision, these people can say, 'We didn't have a chance to give any input.' "

Not all of the feedback was negative. At least a couple of speakers urged the others to keep an open mind moving forward. They also suggested that children's time away from school is not the school district's problem.

"Folks here are wondering, 'Who's going to take care of my child?' " said Jonathan Samelton, who has children at Cox Elementary and Pasco High. "It's not the school's responsibility to take care of your kids."

The task force plans two more forums next week. The comments and questions will become part of the larger report, along with the task force members' collected work and responses to a survey the district conducted.

Initial survey results indicate, among other things, that a third of families would transfer their children out of a school with a four-day calendar, and that more than half believed that a four-day week would negatively affect the quality of their children's academic experience.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Comments
A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

The young man in a white jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled, looked past the throng of reporters pointing microphones toward his face, barely opening his mouth as he answered questions."I shot through the door," he said, looking at a female repor...
Published: 04/21/18
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Published: 04/20/18
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Published: 04/20/18
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Published: 04/20/18
Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Every time I see an algebraic formula, Mrs. Watson, Mrs. Landreth and Mrs. McBee flash through my mind.If you say history, I say Mr. Groot and Mrs. Melton. If you say civics, I say Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Hunt.I type using the "home keys" because Mrs....
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18
Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

LARGO — Starting soon, Pinellas County public schools could be using a nationwide violence prevention program founded by families of those killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December 2012.The nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise, with ...
Published: 04/19/18

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Published: 04/18/18