Gulfport School District getting more statewide attention for flexible schedule

In the 2023 Legislative session, education will be a priority.
Published: Jan. 1, 2023 at 8:47 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - In the 2023 Legislative session, education will be a priority.

Thanks to Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, lawmakers are likely to get an earful about the Gulfport School District’s flexible schedule. That’s because the district is being held up as an example for other districts in the state to follow.

Gulfport was the first on the Coast and the first of its size to implement a flexible schedule. The move was for one primary purpose.

“How can we close some achievement gaps earlier in the school year rather than to wait until summer and trying to do it?” said Gulfport School Superintendent Glen East.

Gulfport is in its second full year of the new schedule, which divides the school year into nine-week sessions with two-week intercessions to help students who are behind get caught back up.

East said it began when it was needed the most.

“Coming through Covid and out of Covid just seemed to kind of solidify all of our conversations and our committee work,” he said.

East added that the move has already proven to be academically successful.

“We’ve been able to intentionally close achievement gaps with certain groups of students - with all students, frankly,” he said. “But we’ve seen some benefits. For example, 28th Elementary School has the highest test scores it’s had in a long time.”

The idea is catching on with other Coast districts. Pass Christian now has a version of the flexible schedule. Not only is the Pascagoula-Gautier School District considering the move, but it’s also getting more attention statewide.

“We want to encourage schools to be much like Gulfport with the modified calendar,” Hosemann told WLOX News Now. “And I went to the intersession down in Gulfport this past summer and sat in the room with some of those kids. I was really impressed with what Mr. East is doing there.”

East likes the idea of getting more schools on board.

“I think he’s right in trying to help other school districts get started,” he said. “And I see it as something that’s a good model to follow.”

East added the move happened after eight years of discussions, but the planning didn’t take place in a vacuum. His ongoing advice for those considering the change is what he learned early on.

“Well, the first advice I give them is to get their community involved as quickly as possible,” East said. “This is not a decision that is made from a superintendent’s desk, or our leadership of the school district’s desk or the school board. This is a committee of people, a group of people. The community has to be involved.”

East also the side benefit of the flexible schedule is the multiple, smaller breaks throughout the year, which gives both teachers and students time to regenerate, but not fall behind.

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