The Magazine School Board last week unanimously gave its blessing to implement the so-called hybrid schedule for the 2018-2019 school year.
Superintendent Brett Bunch had pushed to implement the change to the school calendar this year but after a series of meetings and an informal vote conducted during a parent teacher conference evening, he ended his pursuit.
“I told the board when we took a vote if we didn’t get 80 percent (favorable) I wouldn’t bring it to the board,” Bunch said during the board’s monthly meeting Thursday. “I think some people assumed I’d never bring it back again. But that is not the case.”
Bunch said he is still wanting to make the change to stop the “summer slide” — a term for learning loss — for the school’s students.
“I look at in the mirror every morning and say what’s best for our kids,” said Bunch. “Our kids here in Magazine deserve the same opportunity that kids in Bentonville, Greenwood or anywhere else deserve.”
Bunch said he believes the biggest question is centered on money — in terms of expense and or possible student loss.
“Anywhere from $50,000 to $140,000, and that’s not conservative, that’s on the high side,” Bunch said of the expense. “If people chose to move out of the Magazine district, we can’t do anything about that, we can’t limit that number.
“If they decide they want to school choice into another school, the most that we can lose is 16 (students) because there is a 3 percent cap, statewide, on how many can leave your school.”
Neighboring schools like Booneville and Paris could, under the limit, lose 40 or 35.
“They gains outweigh the losses,” he said. “If we reduce summer slide by 20 percent in three years, that’s 50 percent of that summer loss they don’t have any more,” said Bunch.
There will continue to be 178 school days but students will be able to attend. Next year school starts at the end of July. Labor Day will be a day off. There will be two weeks off in October, a week off at Thanksgiving, three weeks at Christmas, and two weeks for Spring Break and a seven-week summer.
“You’re going from an 11 or 12 week summer to seven,” Bunch said.
The schedule also has a parent teacher conference each nine week, always on the Friday of the fifth week of the quarter. Students will also be off those days.
“By meeting with parents four times a year, we fell like we’re going to have more impact with the parents,” said Bunch. “I’ve said that ever since I’ve been here, I want more parent involvement.”
The biggest impact, Bunch said, will probably be for football. The superintendent would like to see a bye week during the time off but head coach Doug Powell said the off weeks would fall during the conference season so he did not think that would be possible.
However, Bunch said that coaches will be required to permit athletes to be out during the non-school days for family issues.
Bunch said baseball, basketball, softball, and track coaches are all okay with the change.
Additionally, during the non-school weeks, students will be permitted to come to school for enrichment work, transportation will be available similar to the limited routes run for inclement weather and breakfast and lunch will be available as well.
Bunch said he has been in contact with colleges who are open to allowing students to sit in on classes during the intercession periods.
Along with the calendar change, the school is restructuring its JAG (Jobs for American Graduates) program as well.
“That will help our seniors. Some of our seniors only need a couple classes to graduate so they come and they fill the rest of their day,” said Bunch. “If we can keep them engaged in the morning and they go to jobs or go to UAFS or Tech to get college credit they can do that.”
Similarly, students enrolled in the WATC program will still have to go to school but the Virtual Arkansas representatives have pledged to work with the school to have the distance learning options available when school begins.
The school is not committed to operate under the calendar for multiple years but that is Bunch’s preference.
“If it’s not working and the board decides that we’re going to get away from, the board makes that decision,” said Bunch. “I’d like for us to commit to three years so we can get that base information on whether or not it’s working. That first year you’re just developing information to see what the loss or gain.
“The second year you’ll get a better idea, the third year you’ll actually know.”
Used to gauge success will include ACT Aspire test scores, ACT scores, attendance, discipline and students will be tested before and after breaks.
Bunch was asked if there were other schools using the calendar. He acknowledged Bentonville did something similar but said it was to compensate for overcrowding.
Board member Michael Springer made the motion to approve Bunch’s recommendation to change the calendar and Alfonso Vasquez seconded it.