Plans to transition to a four-day school week have divided the New Bloomfield R-3 School District Board of Education and the community.
Since the board voted in January to implement a four-day calendar next school year, the issue has refused to settle.
Concerned citizens showed up to Thursday's board meeting to voice opposition, and a second vote on the calendar threatened to derail the district's plans.
"We are a small community, and since this proposed calendar was first introduced, what I have seen displayed over and over is a division within this board's members that has additionally flooded to our community," said Gina Clark, who went to the meeting to ask for civility and unity.
Bobbie Killian has two sons who attend New Bloomfield schools, but her concerns about the school week are related to two other children in her care — her niece and nephew, who are wards of the state.
"There are so many issues that need to be addressed before jumping into this," Killian said. "Being a guardian of my niece and nephew, the last five years has opened my eyes to some of these issues. I get to see both sides, families that do good and families that are not so good."
Killian said while her sons are old enough, they could probably stay home on their own on Mondays, her niece and nephew are too young. As wards of the state, they can only attend a child care center that is registered with the Missouri Department of Social Services.
Killian said there's only one child care center in New Bloomfield registered with DSS — not only is it currently full, but it doesn't take children past second grade.
"I'm not the only parent within this community that will have this these issues," Killian said.
In her remarks to the board, Killian had one request — give the community more time to consider the school week.
"I do believe our community can come together and do something for these families for those Mondays, but they need time. Five months is not enough time," Killian said.
Darla Jordan agreed, outlining concerns expressed in a survey sent to parents, including child care costs and fears about decreases in instructional time or education quality. Jordan also presented a petition with nearly 60 signatures.
"If you voted in favor of the four-day school calendar, I ask that you please reconsider your vote to give more time to address community concerns," Jordan said.
Plans for how to address many of the concerns are still being worked out. Later in the meeting, the board heard from Superintendent Sarah Wisdom and New Bloomfield Middle School/High School Principal Paul Cloudwright about aspects of the new calendar.
Under the new schedule, older students will no longer have advisory, which is a period similar to study hall during which students meet with clubs or receive academic help.
Some view this as a positive of the four-day week — Cloudwright called advisory "one of the banes of my existence." Cloudwright said the chaos of a period where the students are all doing different things and going to different places at the same time means advisory often ends up as free time.
Wisdom shared with the board the possibility of introducing an internship or job-shadowing program for high school students during free Mondays. The idea is still in the early stages, but Wisdom said the Callaway Chamber of Commerce responded positively to the idea.
Also discussed was the potential of students attending dual-credit courses or driver's education training on Mondays.
The board divisions Clark addressed were put on display after board Treasurer Craig Abbott introduced a motion to rescind the board's earlier decision to adopt a four-day school week.
"I don't think that they represent even a small fraction of what you're going to hear when school starts out," Abbott said, gesturing toward the community members who spoke at the meeting.
Board President Terri Sweeten questioned the assertion the decision was rushed, asking Abbott how more time would resolve the issue.
"The community thinks right now that we did the biggest thing in our school and our district in a seven-week time," Abbott said.
Board member Amy Pendleton asked whether any other board members had heard opposition from the community.
"Has anyone else on the board gotten this push-back from the community?" Pendleton asked. "Do you feel like people have been telling you overwhelmingly they don't want the four-day week? Because I have not experienced that at all."
Board member Stacey Allen said she has heard positives and negatives, but the problem is more an issue of education — the people with negative opinions hadn't always heard about the plans in place to address concerns.
"I just want to say that the idea that we have not considered this long enough kind of feels like a slap in the face," Pendleton said. "I know it's been a short amount of time, but at our last meeting, we talked about how this was mentioned nine years ago, before I was on the board."
Pendleton said she carefully considered the issue and has talked to many people in the community.
"I've taken emails. I've taken phone calls. I've taken texts. I have listened to whatever people have said," she said. "I've had a lot of people tell me they don't support this, but overwhelmingly, people are saying that they do. And my job is not to vote for my personal feelings, my job is to represent the people — all the parents, the teachers, the students in this community — and that is exactly why I voted yes. My own husband does not want a four-day week. I feel like some of us have made this more about our personal feelings."
Board Vice President Debbie Cuno argued everyone was trying to represent the community, but it's possible they weren't all hearing the same feedback.
"I've heard a lot from grandparents and older people that are going to be asked to babysit and to take care of their grandkids on Mondays," Cuno said. "And, you know, I've listened to all and I'm like you. I just happened to have heard more of the other direction."
Cuno joined Abbott in his call for more time. By the end of her plea to hold off on the four-day week for at least another year, Cuno had begun to tear up.
"We can get people together and sit down and work this out," Cuno said.
Board member Tod Schattgen said the challenge of working out the new calendar has showed a positive side of the district — its ability to improve education.
"I mean, if we were to put this much time into a five-day calendar, think where we could be," Schattgen joked.
As the discussion wound down, Sweeten called for a vote. In a 4-3 vote, the board agreed to continue with the four-day week.
Allen, board member Johnathan Morningstar, Pendleton and Sweeten voted in favor of the new week. Abbott, Cuno and Schattgen voted to rethink the calendar.
"We will have a four-day calendar next year," Sweeten said.