Monday Academy and the four-day week
New Bloomfield began using a four-day Tuesday-Friday calendar this fall. Since then, school staff and administrators have returned generally positive feedback.
On the extra Mondays when most students are not at school, the district implemented a number of programs, including driver’s education and Monday Academy.
Monday Academy, a remediation program aimed at helping struggling students improve and meet their educational goals with individualized instruction, has been a success. The Missouri Association of School Administrators has even recognized Monday Academy with an innovation award.
The district is eyeing grant funding as a way to continue to improve and expand Monday offerings. But Monday Academy is a product of the four-day week and the district has not always been certain that four-day would continue.
The school calendar must be approved by the school board each year. In January 2020, the board approved the calendar by a slim majority.
Current board members Stacey Allen, Amy Pendleton and board President Terri Sweeten, as well as former board member Jonathan Moringstar voted in favor of the four day. Current board member Tod Schattgen and former board members Debbie Cuno and Craig Abbott voted in opposition.
A year later, the board again approved a four-day calendar for the 2021-2022 school year. This time, Sweeten, Pendleton, Allen and new members Gina Clark and Angie Robinson-Sullivan voted in favor. Schattgen and new member Josh Woods voted in opposition.
“I think everyone knows where I stood on four-day before becoming a board member — I was not in support of it,” Robinson-Sullivan said. “I did not like it. As a parent, now I’m growing to understand a whole lot about it. I see the benefits of it and I think it’s working. We’ve heard from the admin team, yes, it’s working right now.”
Recently, the district has become aware of another potential source of funding for Monday Academy — the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant. Applications for the $50,000-$400,000 grants open in March.
But the grant covers four years of funding. In thinking about applying, district administrators ran into the same question that has come up again and again — will the board continue to support the four-day week?
“I just kind of need direction,” superintendent Sarah Wisdom said. “The thing is with four-day being contentious with the board the last couple of years, this ties us into a grant that could be servicing those positions. That’s my hang-up. I would like to move forward with it because I think it’s what’s good for kids, but I also need some more commitment.”
Because calendars must be approved by the board each year and two or three faces on the board could change with each annual election, it’s hard to predict what will happen in the future. But the district was reassured Thursday that the board generally supports Monday Academy and encouraged to research and prepare for the 21st Century grant application.
Schattgen and Woods asked if more students could be offered the Monday Academy remediation opportunity. Woods said that some negative feedback on the four-day that he has heard would be resolved by expanding the program to more students.
Wisdom pushed back at the idea of inviting all students to Monday Academy noting remediation is focused on students who are significantly below grade level — students who are already at or above grade level have different needs.
Monday Academy remediation serves the highest-need students by invitation. If a family declines the opportunity or, on the other hand, a student improves enough that they no longer need the help, the next child on the list is invited.
Describing Monday opportunities, Wisdom mentioned potentially looking into an early childhood kindergarten readiness program. The grant could also be used to add enrichment opportunities.
Clark said she supported the four-day, noting the issue has been discussed several times in the community and by the board, passing each time.
“I think we’re all very well-versed and well-informed on the ins and outs of four-day at this point,” Clark said.
Robinson-Sullivan said to truly understand the effects of the four-day week, the district needs several years of data.
“I think it deserves a minimum of three to four years for it to gel,” Robinson-Sullivan said. “Let all the kinks work themselves out. If they don’t work themselves out, if the data is not made to support this after three or four years, then I think this board if we’re still here or if it’s a brand new board, they’ve got a decision to make.”
Taking in the comments of Robinson-Sullivan, other board members and district administrators, Schattgen agreed.
“The way I’m feeling after hearing your comments and the rest of the board, I don’t think here’s any need to discuss four-day any further,” Schattgen said. “I think we’re kind of committed and if the grant makes us focus on a long-term four-day calendar, I think that’s a good thing.”
By the end of the discussion, the board had settled on support for Monday Academy.
Facilities and board decisions
In other meeting business, the board approved several agreements.
All members except for Amy Pendleton were present.
The board voted unanimously to approve two separate task orders with Navigate Building Solutions to begin preparing for roofing and parking lot projects and a new concession stand.
“I feel more and more confident with our big summer projects,” Wisdom said, expressing optimism about the district’s budget.
Also approved was a bid for food services from OPAA Food Management. Wisdom said the district was happy with the service OPAA has provided recently.
The board renewed the agreement with the Callaway County Sheriff’s Office for the services of school resource officer Nick Jensen.
An agreement with Wildcat Care was extended to allow the program continued use of school buildings for before and after school care.
The board is next scheduled to meet March 18.