Marfa ISD to survey parents on 4-day school week

MARFA — The Marfa Independent School Board of Trustees will begin soliciting feedback from parents as it considers implementing a four-day school week in the 2023-24 school year. 

At Monday night’s board meeting, Superintendent Oscar Aguoero said the measure is being considered in light of feedback from teachers, who have consistently said they need more time for planning and preparation in the school week. Other Texas school districts, including Minerals Wells and Chico ISDs, have switched to the four-day week in response to these concerns, said Aguero, noting it also serves as a teacher recruitment tool. 

“They were having the same problems that we were having,” he said. “The teachers are working way too many hours afterwards and the next day.”

A four-day school week would not amount to a permanent long weekend, said Aguero — If the schedule were implemented, Friday would serve as a day for tutoring, lesson planning, and parent-teacher conferences. In his research, he’d found that student performance didn’t suffer as long as they were receiving roughly 30 hours of instruction per week, and that student scores only dipped when Fridays were not set aside for supplemental tutoring. “If the Friday is planned and dedicated to actually improve instruction for the following week, then it’s worth taking that day to give to teachers,” said Aguero. “If it is just a day off, then there was no benefit for the kids — then it becomes just a benefit for adults.”

Aguero had already spoken to teachers and to the student council about the plan — the only group he hadn’t sought feedback from was the parents, who will be surveyed next.

Bus transportation would still be available on Fridays to take kids to campus, said Aguero, who suggested a model of tutoring in the mornings so teachers could have the afternoon for planning. 

Board President Teresa Nuñez expressed reservations about the modified schedule. “At first I was kind of for it, but I’m kind of leaning against it,” she said. Because it is a fairly new concept, there is a shortage of data on the model’s effectiveness, she argued, and the relative lack of structure could leave parents scrambling to find babysitters and allow kids with more free time to get into trouble. (Aguero noted kids already had free weekends and summers –– and Fridays under the proposed model would not be entirely free.)

“To me, the summers are already planned out,” said Nuñez. “They know they’ll have somebody during the summer to watch them.”

Nuñez also raised the issue of school lunches — the district serves a lot of kids from low-income families who depend on the school for food.

“It’s not an off day,” countered Board Secretary Rene Gonzales, noting the district would still be providing transport and some degree of programming for students.

Ultimately, the board decided to make a survey for parents and to revisit the issue in the new year. Vice President Yolanda Jurado anticipated some resistance. “I think we’re going to have some pushback from some of the parents,” she said. “They’re not off on Fridays. Most people are not off.” 

In the districts that had implemented the four-day school week, said Aguero, reactions from parents were evenly split.

Other news:

Aguero said the installation of new security cameras is about halfway through, and the remaining cameras are slated to be installed next week. Once all the cameras are installed, viewing access will be given to the Marfa Police Department. 

After a meeting with the mayor and the police chief, the district is moving ahead with the hiring of a school resource officer (SRO) — a job posting is expected to be circulated by Thursday, said Aguero, and the district hopes to fill the position by February.

After a proposed $57 million school bond failed to pass in the November election, board members agreed they should re-evaluate the matter and put another bond on an upcoming ballot. Conversations around how best to approach a prospective bond are ongoing.

Board members voted unanimously to seek a seventh member to fill the board’s vacant first position. A job posting has been shared to the Marfa Shorthorns Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/marfashorthorns — those interested in filling the position are instructed to submit a letter to the superintendent’s office by Thursday, January 12, no later than 3:30 p.m. The new member will be selected at a board meeting on January 16.

The board was thrilled to announce that Coach Edgar Ramirez has been named Cross-Country Coach of the Year in 1A through 4A Division by the Texas Girls Coaches Association.