Educators concerned about bill to shorten school year by five days

For five straight years, the Pass Christian School District has ranked number one in Mississippi.
For five straight years, the Pass Christian School District has ranked number one in Mississippi.

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - If one state lawmaker gets his way, Mississippi students will spend fewer days in school. Representative John Moore has introduced a bill that would shorten the school year from 180 days to 175 days. Some South Mississippi educators say the move would hurt student achievement.

For five straight years, the Pass Christian School District has ranked number one in Mississippi. The district is striving for another banner year. Educators say every moment counts in the classroom.

"We go the extra mile to provide opportunities before school and even after the school day, so we are currently extending the day as is just to make sure we're meeting the needs of students," said Pass Christian Elementary Principal Dr. Kenitra Barnes.

That's why they raised concerns about a state bill that would cut five days out of the school calendar in Mississippi.

"If there's just that limited 175 days, I do fear that things would be compromised," said Barnes.

The bill's author, House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, told WLOX News the measure has nothing to do with saving money, but rather giving districts more flexibility in scheduling.

He said since school districts must push back their start dates next year, their last day of school won't be until the end of May or early June. Moore said giving districts five extra days would allow them to release students earlier.

Moore went on to say the state has added ten school days over the years, but he claimed there is no data to show dramatic improvements in student achievement. Moore said he doesn't believe shortening the school year by five days would hurt academic performance.

But every educator we talked to disagreed.

"I am concerned about it and I was surprised that they chose that method actually," said Pass Christian School Intervention Strategist Dr. Peggy McCullough.

And with new Common Core State Standards being implemented, teachers say they need as much instructional time as possible.

"When Mississippi is in the news, our children are rated poorly compared to other states. So we really don't need to have less time in class, because in order for us to keep up with the rest of the nation, we need all the time we can," said McCullough.

"On the teacher side of that, you're kind of disappointed, because you have so much to cover and it's shortening the time you have to cover it. But on the parent's side, you understand that because then you have more time to go and do what you want to do to spend time with your children. It's pros and cons on both sides," said Pass Christian Elementary Teacher Linda Windley.

Rep. Moore said reducing school days won't affect education funding or teachers' salaries. He added that the move may even boost morale, because teachers would work fewer days.

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