The weekend will start a little earlier at Spring Hill ISD starting Oct. 9.

On Monday, trustees approved shortening the instructional week to end with a half day on Fridays to give teachers more time to prepare for the next week of instruction.

Superintendent Wayne Guidry said the action will provide more quality lessons and enhanced student engagement.

“Fifty percent of teachers are spending 11 or more hours outside the work week to do lesson planning and other work, and we aren’t paying them a dime of overtime,” he told the school board during their scheduled meeting. “The look on teachers’ faces right now is the look we see in May, and it’s disheartening.”

Teachers are having to prepare and teach lessons both in person and virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning they spend more time planning and administering lessons.

Guidry said he remembers from his teaching years that there was a strong correlation between his preparedness with the quality of the lesson and the level of student engagement.

“Right now, our teachers are missing that preparation time, and me along with our staff, we believe if we increase preparation time we’ll have better quality of instruction and student engagement,” he said. “And that just seems like a better path forward than the path we’re currently on because that path is very difficult where teachers are incredibly stressed out.”

The district sent surveys to the community and staff to gauge interest. Guidry said the answers were overwhelmingly in favor of the change.

Guidry said buses will run a morning route, a half-day route and typical end-of-day routes on Fridays. Students will be able to stay on campus for an after-school program until parents pick them up in the afternoon or the bus picks them up.

Each campus will have students participating in the after-school program, with the highest number at the primary school with about 95 students.

Guidry said paraprofessionals will split the kids into groups, and they will continue online learning. The secondary students will work on homework or study.

The district is able to do the new weeks without extending the school year calendar, he said. The school day on Fridays will start at 7:45 a.m. on primary and intermediate campuses, 8:15 a.m. at the junior high and 8:30 a.m. at the high school.

One of Guidry’s biggest concerns was making sure everything can be covered in a shortened week, but he said teachers and administrators assured him it was possible.

“We’re not compromising our goals or our vision as a district,” he said. “I think this puts us in a better position to achieve it in this unique year.”

Kristen is the News-Journal's education reporter. A Longview native, she got a journalism degree and a graduate certificate at Texas Tech University. She covers a variety of issues, including school finance, board meetings and happenings at local schools.