Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Banner County considers four day school schedule

 


With more rural schools in the tri-state area opting to move to a four-day school week, the Banner County School Board hosted a community meeting on Thursday, March 9, to examine the potential benefits and pitfalls of the same, though this decision solely falls on the school board, as a vote is not required.

“I would like to thank you all for coming. We appreciate your time,” board president Charity May said. “I would like to remind you that we are simply here to listen; we don’t have the answers.”

Dozens of residents showed up for the meeting, and with a nearly packed cafeteria, the discussion began with the introduction of Dr. LeAnn Smith, a 20-year educator, from Albin, Wyo.

Smith, a teacher and administrator, began by listing some of the positive impacts she has seen in two schools, one in Colorado and the other in Wyoming, that transitioned to four-day school weeks.

Teacher recruiting and retention was the main goal at the Colorado school that Smith addressed.

“Thirteen years later, they are still on their four-day week and they like it very much,” Smith said.

In Albin, her most recent post, the decision was made when curriculum changes demanded an excess of teacher time. Because teachers were pulled out of class, substitutes were used, and students’ education suffered, according to Smith.

Moving to a four-day school week freed one day for teachers to deal with curriculum changes without taking teacher time away from students and saved that district nearly $70,000 over the course of two years.

Smith said that in addition to increased teacher time at Laramie School District 2, students’ math and reading scores increased, especially at the elementary level. Additional student time with the family, particularly for farmers and ranchers, seemed to be a bonus.

“In both of those situations, both of those districts are at an 80 percent-plus approval rating and that is typical nationwide of all schools that go to four day school week,” Smith said.

Many of the concerns Smith covered was the amount of homework, the length of the day, increased enrollment and attendance as well as transportation – which presents a significant savings.

The proposed timeline for the Banner County district would increase morning time by five minutes, beginning at 7:55 and ten minutes in the afternoon, releasing students’ at 3:40.

“Most of our busses are here by 7:50,” principal Charles Jones said.

Though the agenda asked for discussion on the pros and cons of such a change, most residents offered only questions.

Some of those questions included: Will the school year be extended? Will busses transport students to the school for competitions? Will projected savings be passed on to tax payers? What will the effect by on wages for support staff such as bus drivers, cooks and custodial crews? Would teachers be available on Fridays for students who need extra support?

A pilot period was suggested, though that will not likely happen until the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

“If it is for the children, that is wonderful. It should be for the benefit of the child, if we are going to do it,” Charlie Singleton said.

Many of the questions were discussed at length, and in the end, the board and the citizens attending agreed to revisit the issue at a future meeting.

 

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