Mixed reviews on 4-day week

 


Laramie County School District No. 2 held the first of two public meetings last Thursday, at Burns High School, to receive input from parents with children in district schools about the proposed four-day school week, which would begin with the 2015-2016 fall semester.

There were parents from at least two schools present, speaking out for and against the proposed change, and while the majority of comments were against the four-day week, when an impromptu vote was requested by a parent in the audience, it appeared that sentiments were split 50/50.

Superintendent Jack Cozort began the meeting by going over a bullet list of reasons why a four-day school week is better for the district. Just a year ago, the school board was contemplating a four-and-a-half day school week, but a month later determined it was in the best interest of the students and staff alike to keep a five-day week.

At this meeting, though, the Superintendent was prepared, giving reasons from improved high quality instruction time to reducing the costs of hiring substitute teachers; and stating families would benefit by less meal costs, referring to school lunches.


He also stated Fridays would be set aside for remedial instruction, or Friday School, field trips and enrichment opportunities.

The model district the school board is using as a pattern the four-day calendar is located in Sheridan. According to Cozort, there are currently 40 schools in 12 districts using this schedule, and are displaying higher levels of learning.

When it came time for comments from the audience, there were two reasons that stood out when it came to opposition – the cost of daycare and children who rely on the free breakfasts and lunches they receive.

The daycare argument has to do with the fact that most require a commitment of paying for a week’s worth of care whether a child is present or not at the daycare center. With the high cost of daycare, this would be a financial hardship for many parents. There is also the matter of dropping off and picking up grade school children, from daycare, who would normally ride a bus on Fridays.

There are also a large number of students who receive the free and reduced cost breakfast and lunch everyday during the school year. If the school week is reduced to four days per week, there are children who may not get the necessary nutrition of a good breakfast or lunch, which is a concern since studies that have been done conclude that children who are lacking in proper nutrition tend not to do as well in school as those who have regular meals.


There were several parents who spoke in favor of the four-day school week, stating that first and foremost the most important aspect to consider is a child’s education, and that parents need to do whatever is necessary for their students to receive a quality education.

One parent, whose child started school in the Pawnee School District but who now attends school in Carpenter, said that she was nervous about placing her child in a school district with a five-day school week. The Pawnee School District has been operating on a four-day week, and she and her family liked it because they enjoyed quality family time on Friday’s. However, because of the longer school days and the amount of work her child was expected to complete she felt he would have benefited from the Friday School being proposed by the school board, which is not offered in the Pawnee district.

The school board did not address the parents’ concerns at the meeting, but instead said they needed to do some research so they could provide answers. One parent asked the board whether the comments and questions they had received during the course of the meeting would have any affect on their final decision to revise the school calendar to accommodate a four-day school week, but did not receive an answer.

Under the new schedule, high school and junior high students would begin their day at 7:55 a.m., with the last class ending at 3:40 p.m. Elementary students would begin at 8:05 a.m., and be dismissed at 3:30 p.m. For some students, who live in rural areas and ride buses, this means a 10-hour day, four days a week, which has many parents of young students concerned.

At the end of the meeting, Superintendent Cozort answered, when asked how he felt the meeting had gone, “It was what I expected. Unfortunately, there is nothing the school district can do about the cost of childcare.”

The school board held a second hearing this past Tuesday evening in Pine Bluffs.

 

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