SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Caddo Parish public schools will be starting school five days earlier for middle and elementary school students this school year, and it’s causing some consternation among teachers.

Caddo Parish Schools Chief Academic Officer Keith Burton says the decision was made because of the pandemic.

“With all of this, that has truly impacted learning, one of the things that the state has advised us to do and we worked with them on and we presented to our board in February was to be able to add five additional days to our calendar for elementary and middle school students.”

The new schedule change has Caddo students and educators in grades K-8 starting on August 3.

Jordan Thomas is the Executive Vice President of Red River United and is the President of the Caddo Federation of Teachers and Support Personnel. She doesn’t believe this new change will make much of a difference in performance for students.

“You’re making it up as you go along and we’re really not sure how it’s going to benefit anyone. In fact, if it’s about lost learning, then what about the high school students? They were out of school as well during this time, so why is it just the K through 8?”

Preparation for staff is a major concern for both Thomas and Burton.

“Teachers always tell us they do not have adequate time to complete beginning of the year diagnostics and screeners,” said Burton. “Teachers do not have enough time throughout the school year to just have the adequate amount of time to teach all of the content.”

But Thomas says this start date does not allow educators enough time to prepare for the 2022-23 school year.

“You know, the students would report on August first. Well, typically, before students report, teachers are given a couple of days on campus for professional development. In this case, any teacher in K-8 are not going to receive those days.”

Thomas also says this decision compromises summer plans for teachers and students’ families.

However, Burton says there’s a solution to that.

“We certainly are going to work with those families. But we are starting school. I mean, with that being said, if we don’t hear from a family, we’re going to assume that child’s absent.”

Thomas does not believe it will make a difference.

“If all the students are not reporting, it really kind of limits what teachers can do in a classroom because then you’re going to have half the class that has to make an assignment or whatever it may be.”

Thomas also says some things are in the works to protect Caddo Parish School employees, like union contracts.