(Lander, Wyo.) – The Fremont County School District 1 Board of Education today began mulling over the pros and cons of possibly switching to a four-day school week or year-round school, but in the process identified a problem area board members want to address.
“What is the problem we’re wanting to fix?” Trustee Teresa Nirider asked of why the board was looking at schedule changes.
Trustee Brooke Sutton responded by saying the problem is time students spend with teachers. She said with early-out Wednesdays and Fridays with combinations of student and teacher absences due to extracurricular activities, something needs to change. Having students gone through the high school, Sutton and Nirider both said there have been times when only three students remain in a class on Fridays and teachers don’t want to give a lecture knowing more than half of the class is missing. Conversely when teaching coaches are out, substitutes just give busy work, Sutton said.
By the end of the meeting, Superintendent Mike Bowman said he and staff would put together data surrounding teacher absences.
There was no action by the board on whether or not it would pursue changing the school schedule to either a four-day week or year-round school. Bowman called either idea a “major paradigm shift” for the community.
Chairman Brett Berg acknowledged that studies don’t necessarily show educational benefits to four-day weeks, but that there is data to support year-round schooling, primarily due to less learning loss over shorter breaks.
One parent of a freshman was in attendance, and she raised concerns with the amount of school student athletes miss on Fridays. Sutton and Nirider both said they liked the idea of four-day weeks to help alleviate some of the decreased amount instruction that occurs on Fridays.
There was also some discussion of just having the high school switch to four-day weeks, and the rest of the district remaining at five. At no point was it decided whether the four days would be longer to make up for the missed Friday, or if the school year would last later into the summer. Statutorily students must have a certain amount of hours in the classroom each school year.
Trustees Joe Palladino and Dave Clark noted that the schedule changes had been discussed in the past, and the community support wasn’t there. “I almost feel like we’re trying to fix something that really isn’t broke,” Clark said. Among the concerns raised about four-day weeks was what parents would do for day care.
Berg directed administration to put together an online survey in order to solicit thoughts on the topic from parents and the community. Bowman said he would draft a survey and present it to the board at a future meeting before it goes live.
If there is some support for either four-day weeks or year-round school, the school board is expected to explore possibilities further with community meetings for additional input. If there is not, the matter will most likely be dropped. Should the board decide to implement any changes in the future, Bowman said it would probably be a two-year planning process before anything could be implemented.
However, Berg made it clear that regardless of the survey’s results, the board would continue to look into ways to keep teachers and students in the classroom together more often than is happening now.