Banner County School Board approves ‘outside-of-the box’ idea: 4-day school week

February 13, 2019

HARRISBURG — Banner County Public Schools Board of Education approved the district’s transition to a four-day school week during Monday’s board of education meeting.

The board unanimously approved the four-day school week. To ensure the students receive the required instructional hours, the school day will be 10 minutes longer, running from 7:55 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. The current schedule is from 7:55 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Preschool will not be affected by this change, since students attend school Monday through Thursday. The shorter school week will take effect during the 2019-20 academic year, but students will still have the opportunity to attend school Friday for enrichment activities.

Roughly 20 members of the public attended the meeting to voice their thoughts on the change. Parents voiced concern about the loss of the fifth day of instruction, access to transportation and meals.

Students also attended the meeting.

“From what I saw, it was 50/50,” said junior Luke Lindberg. “There were people who thought it was a really good idea and there were some people who didn’t think it was. There was kind of an in-between, but really people either liked it or they didn’t.”

Sophomore Aubrey Clement said she is excited to have Fridays off and still have the opportunity to come to school and learn.

“Fridays will allow us to get some more common sense knowledge, not just the book smarts,” she said. “I think it will help us our junior year study for the state test.”

While she looks forward to the new school week and learning activities, Clement said the longer school day means she will get home later.

“A con is extending the school day, especially for people who ride the bus,” she said. “I know I don’t get in town until 4 p.m. already, so now it’s going to be later.”

The school board and Banner County Superintendent Evelyn Browne finalized the four-day week proposal during the board’s annual retreat in January. At the retreat, Browne proposed that Friday be an optional attendance day with enrichment activities.

“Like Good Time, Genius Hour, or Passion Projects, with the fifth day, students can explore, create and collaborate,” said Browne. “The possibilities are giving us all goosebumps.”

Browne added that the Friday enrichment will enable teachers to take students on field trips, build computers, use 3D printers, and learn about robotics during longer sessions than a typical school day. Teachers are encouraged to teach their passions to provide students a wide range of Friday enrichment options. The district is currently compiling ideas.

School board member and board treasurer Wittni Boettcher said, “The four-day week will open up educational opportunities for students, allow them to think hands-on, and have tons of fun while learning.”

During enrichment Fridays, teachers will still take attendance, but the projects focus more on student-initiated learning that expands on concepts in the classroom. Students will have the option to switch sessions if the Friday session they choose is not what they anticipated.

Board member Larry Pahl shared how option enrollment Fridays is “the outside-of-the-box thinking that we need.”

The district’s decision to move to a four-day week required extensive research, community consultation and compilation of information from districts that operate on a four-day week. They also looked at the cost-savings benefits.

“Costs were never a factor in our decision-making process,” said board president Ron Johnson. “It was about growing the school and providing access to learning opportunities for students.”

Browne added that the district’s operating expenses will drop roughly $8,000 from $20,000 to $12,000. Aside from saving money, Browne hopes the four-day week will attract option students to the district.

Junior Haddie Grubbs voiced her support for the transition, but posed questions about the Friday enrichment.

“I think it’s a pretty good deal, but what if the students don’t like the activities that are provided?” she asked. “How are teachers going to like teaching those classes? These are questions we can’t really answer until next year.”

The district initially considered the four-day school week in 2016, but due to concerns about transportation and nutrition, the board voted 3-3 on the transition. While the week did not change, a modified calendar that boosts professional learning and collaboration time for teachers and switches to a four-day schedule every other week has been in effect since 2017.

As Lindberg prepares for his senior year at Banner County High School, he said, “I think it’s sweet because it’s going to be my senior year. My last year is going to be four-day weeks.”

Also during Monday’s meeting, the board approved the 2019-20 calendar, with the first day of school on Aug. 14, 2019, and the school year ending on May 21, 2020.

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