As the final days of summer dwindle, students across the area will soon settle into their routine of waking up early Monday through Friday and heading to school.

While that is true for most area students, the Warsaw R-IX School District in Benton County has changed that plan. In March, the Board of Education voted five to one with one abstention to move to a four-day-a-week schedule for the 2018-19 school year.

During a March 22 meeting at the school with more than 200 parents, students and residents, Superintendent Dr. Shawn Poyser cited a number of factors, most notably the desire to increase district instructional time and student attendance. He said by making the transition, the district will succeed in achieving both goals.

“We have 83 percent of our students here 90 percent of the time,” Poyser commented during the March meeting. “It’s a concern for us obviously.”

Students now attend classes Tuesday through Friday, with 10 Mondays throughout the year serving as teacher work days. 

Parents are asked to schedule appointments for their children, such as doctor or dentist visits, on Mondays. Parent-teacher conferences are also reserved for Mondays. Most federal holidays are observed on Mondays, which factored into the decision as well.

The Democrat spoke to two students from Warsaw on Thursday. While they said they could not speak for everyone, they indicated students throughout the district seem to be adjusting to the new schedule. 

“It really hasn’t been difficult at all to make the adjustment,” William Flores commented. “I really kind of like it.

“On Mondays I get to come here to the CTC instead of following a full-day schedule,” he added. “I’m only here for two hours so it really isn’t bad. I get to be part of a program (criminal justice) that I really like.”

Heather Weaver, who like Flores is a senior at Warsaw, noted many of their classmates enjoy the schedule because it allows them to have an extra day to do what they want to do without missing class time.  

“It’s definitely been a big change but I think most of the students like it better,” Weaver said. “We have time to do our homework and projects and it’s nice to have the extra day to work on them.” 

Twenty-five Missouri schools are operating under the four-day system. 

By changing its calendar, Warsaw will be in attendance 153 days. The district will total 1,086 hours of classroom instruction, 42 more than the state requires.

A total of 30 minutes, 15 at the start of the school day and 15 at the end, were added to the schedule to meet the requirement for total minutes of instructional time.

The district will use six Mondays during the second semester as inclement weather days in the event of school cancellations.

No practices will be permitted during the day on Mondays. Those and scheduled events must begin after what would be normal dismissal for the day.

“We would be pushing a rock uphill if we didn’t have the support of the teachers,” Poyser told the audience in March.

A survey of staff members prior to the vote indicated 93 percent of Warsaw certified staff and 91 percent of non-certified staff were in favor of the change.

Warsaw students who attend State Fair Community College’s Career and Technical Center are still required to be in attendance on Mondays, according to SFCC CTC Director Eric Rehmer.

“There are no negatives from our end,” Rehmer told the Democrat on Wednesday. “The school has been very supportive and the kids have just been great. There is nothing that we are concerned with at this point.”

While there has been a slight drop of 15 percent (six students) in the number who typically attend the program from Warsaw, Rehmer attributes much of that to an overall decrease in junior class size throughout the sending schools.

Sedalia School District 200 Superintendent Steve Triplett said while he applauds Warsaw for looking at alternatives and thinking outside the box, Sedalia 200 administrators have had “little to no discussion on the subject of moving to a four-day schedule.”     

“While it may be a good fit for other districts, I think what we have in place works,” Triplett said Wednesday. “We are financially sound, our attendance is at the 90/90 mark and our test scores are good.”

As for issues among Warsaw residents such as daycare and a student meal program, the district is working to address those concerns by planning to add extra meals to Buddy Packs sent home with students. Poyser said additional snacks would be provided to all district students throughout the school day.

A survey of parents is planned to see the need for daycare in the community.

District officials at Warsaw have committed to a three-year trial period and will reassess the decision before the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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