Sunday, February 18, 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
Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

TAMPA — "Elevate," a Hillsborough County School District initiative that was to focus on seven troubled schools and use them as models for dozens more, is becoming but a memory as the district seeks instead to support all schools equally."We’re more ...
Published: 02/17/18
Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

TAMPA — Students at Plant High School honored the victims of the Parkland school shooting with a series of sidewalk chalk messages.The chalk art carried a series of messages such as "How many times?" and "Do something. Protect us." according to a Fac...
Published: 02/16/18
At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

While fielding calls from anxious parents after the Broward County high school shooting that claimed 17 lives, school officials in the Tampa Bay area took a close look Thursday at what they are doing to keep students safe.There are gates and locks an...
Published: 02/15/18
Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Assuming April Griffin follows through on her decision not to seek re-election to the Hillsborough County School Board, well, meetings just won’t be the same. Chances are they’ll just be filled with boring reports, proclamations and routine business....
Published: 02/15/18
‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

A St. Petersburg High teacher has retired in the middle of the school year after students said he called them "baby," "babe," "missy," "honey," "sweetie," "little girl" and ended one girl’s name with "-licious."The Pinellas County school district fou...
Published: 02/15/18
Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

BROOKSVILLE — Less than a month after taking over as interim principal at long-struggling Moton Elementary School, Brent Gaustad says teamwork by educators across the district has things looking up.Behavior has improved, he said, and innovative proce...
Published: 02/15/18
17 dead, 15 wounded, former student in custody after Broward school shooting

17 dead, 15 wounded, former student in custody after Broward school shooting

PARKLAND — An American nightmare unfolded Wednesday afternoon at a South Florida high school after police say an expelled teenager returned to campus and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 17 and wounding 15 more in the worst school shooting ...
Published: 02/14/18
Teachers take tests too. And when they cheat, Hillsborough has a knack for catching them

Teachers take tests too. And when they cheat, Hillsborough has a knack for catching them

TAMPA — Claudette Wilson and Annella Fender are sisters from Jamaica who did everything together.They both taught at Dowdell Middle School — one English, the other reading. They played tennis on Saturdays. After their match, they would work on their ...
Published: 02/14/18
No raise this year for USF president Genshaft; pay and benefits to remain at $925,000

No raise this year for USF president Genshaft; pay and benefits to remain at $925,000

TAMPA — The University of South Florida System’s long-serving leader will again stand to make about $925,000 in pay and deferred compensation under her proposed contract renewal.If approved, President Judy Genshaft’s contract will provide for about $...
Published: 02/14/18

Pasco School Board: Principals should alert families of potentially controversial books

Recently adopted law that gives parents and other residents more opportunities to review and challenge school instructional materials has sparked the Pasco County School Board to take a closer look at how it deals with such situations.The board last ...
Published: 02/14/18