Gainesville school board considers 4-day week and April 2019 ballot proposal
Gainesville schools superintendent Jeffrey Hyatt said Monday the Gainesville school board is “actively considering” the possibility of moving to a four-day school week for the upcoming year. The board is also considering options for ballot language that might be put before voters in the April 2, 2019, general municipal election.
Hyatt said the recent double defeat by voters, in August and November, of the district’s proposed operating levy increase “was not really a motivating factor in considering the four-day school week. We know it might save between 1 and 2 1/2 percent, and that could amount to a $100,000 a year, so we want to take a good look at it. But the most important thing is, is it best for our students? Is it a good fit?”
When the district polled parents recently via email, it got more than 200 responses, with 70 percent of the responding parents saying they’re in favor of the four-day week; 15 percent were against it, and 15 percent were undecided, Hyatt said. Faculty and staff have also responded favorably. “It sounds good to them, that they won’t work every Monday – some Mondays, but not all,” he said.
District officials have seen several other schools in the Summit Conference, and in southwest Missouri, go to the four-day week. Bakersfield is in its first year of a four-day week. “And they seem to be having a successful school year,” Hyatt said, adding that Fair Grove, a district with 1,200 students near Springfield, has also shifted to a four-day week.
“It’s just good practice to look and see if it would be best for our students,” he said. “We know there would be a cost saving, but that’s not the number one goal at this point. As big a district as we have, with our bus routes and the length of time our kids are traveling, it’s our duty to consider it.”
As the board continues to consider the move, two calendars have been prepared for the 2019-2020 school year. “We have next year’s normal calendar ready to go. But we also have a four-day-week calendar that the board is prepared to consider,” he said.
While he’s aware of several Missouri schools moving to a four-day week, Hyatt said, he hasn’t heard of any school that tried the four-day week and then shifted back to a traditional five-day week.
April 2019 ballot language
In the Aug. 8 primary, the Gainesville school board asked voters to approve an increase in its operating levy of 75 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The proposal was defeated by 14 votes: 690 yes, 704 no. In response to the defeat, the school board put the issue back on the Nov. 6 general election ballot but divided the 75-cent increase into 25-cent increases over each of the next three years, with a 25-year sunset clause that would have ended the 75-cent increase in 2043. The measure was defeated by 150 votes: 930 yes, 1,080 no.
The district’s current operating levy is at $2.75, the state minimum. It’s been 20 years since Gainesville district voters approved a levy increase.
Now the board is in discussions about another ballot attempt to increase funding that could go before voters in the April 2, 2019 general municipal election.
“We have three ballot languages that have been prepared that we’re trying to perfect,” Hyatt said.
“We’ve talked about putting an issue on the ballot that’s just for a new gym, and we’ve talked about a ballot issue that’s just for renovations and upgrades, with no new construction,” he said.
Following a proposal to reinstate football in the high school that was presented at last week’s board meeting by GHS sophomore Dalton Barnett, Hyatt said a third ballot initiative being discussed is one that would ask voters to approve a funding increase just for football. “Dalton did very well with his presentation,” Hyatt said, “and probably 10 to 15 people were there to support him. But we’ve got so many pressing needs around the district, I just don’t think that issue will go anywhere right now.”
The next meeting of the board will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, in the high school library. Those wishing to be added to the agenda may do so by coming to the central office at the high school and completeing the required public comment form.