MERKEL, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – With a 5-0 vote from the school board, Merkel ISD will be moving ahead with a 4-day instructional week calendar for the 2022-2023 school year. The decision came less than three weeks before the school year begins, and Superintendent Joseph O’Malley said the board had been discussing the idea for a few months.

“At our last meeting in June, the board charged me with finding out what the data says. So we threw a survey out to our constituents in the community,” said O’Malley. “Two thirds of our constituents community wide were in favor of it.”

A subsequent poll of district staff showed that two thirds of the staff was in favor of moving ahead with the calendar this year, while the last third thought the change should be held off until next year.

Superintendent O’Malley continued, “We do believe now is the time to go ahead and move forward. We think it’s a great opportunity for us. We realize some families are going to struggle, we’re going to do the best we can to try to support those.”

The main driving force behind this switch, O’Malley said, was the attraction and retention of good teaching staff. O’Malley cited the recent hiring shortage as a reason to look for other ways to show the districts commitment to educator working conditions.

“We can’t necessarily just throw a lot more money at them. So what is it that we can do? One of the things we do have control over is time,” O’Malley offered.

Under the newly approved calendar, Mondays will become workdays for teaching staff. Those Mondays should allow faculty to complete tasks or prep for the week ahead, as they see fit. Teachers will not be required to come in on a regular Monday.

Proposed calendar at time of approval

“As long as you’re getting the job done, we’re happy,” O’Malley said during Thursday’s school board meeting.

Merkel mother of two, Ashten Jenkins, said she was in favor of the new calendar if it may lead to better working conditions for teachers.

“They spend their whole weekends preparing for our kids for five days a week,” Jenkins advocated. “I would hope that that Monday would give them extra time, maybe for half-a-day of rest and half a day of whatever instructional stuff they need to do.”

Even so, some parents and guardians expressed concerns that schedules would conflict with their children now out of school on Mondays. To which O’Malley said their proposed Badger Camp should provide a solution.

“We’re going to create an environment where we can provide them some modified instruction, some activities, some free play… Kind of hang out with their friends,” O’Malley explained. “In a window of time, that will then allow our parents to go to work and come back later that afternoon and pick up their kiddos.”

Badger Camp would be available for students 12 and younger whose parent or guardian would not be able to provide supervision on Mondays, when their child would normally have been in school.

With the school boards approval on Thursday, this new calendar will be in effect for the 2022-2023 school year, shifting the start date from August 17 back to August 15.