Four-day school week to begin this fall

By Sarah Pridgeon

The Board of Trustees has officially instituted a four-day week for Crook County School District, beginning with the next school year. The decision was made following an outreach process that surveyed stakeholders and invited the public to meetings in the three school communities.

“As a board, we thought it was a way to keep more kids in school for more hours, because at these smaller schools they’re all doing sports or extra-curriculars. That’s mainly what the board was looking at,” comments Brian Marchant, Chairman.

No stakeholders attended the meeting to speak against the proposal, he adds. Six board members were present and the motion passed with a vote of five to one, with Trustee Ken Rathbun the sole dissenting voice.

“The superintendent now has to apply to the state for the new calendar and he submitted that a couple of days ago,” Marchant says.

Now it’s official, says Superintendent Mark Broderson, the district has a lot of decisions to make.

“We have to start looking at our attendance policies, we have to educate the students, the teachers and the communities about the importance of being in school now and using those Fridays for the activities that normally took you out of school,” he says.

“As far as student activities go, there is going to be a strong push to keep those on Thursday nights, Fridays and Saturdays, but I don’t want to say that’s the only time we’re going to have them.”

The district will also need to take a look at the curriculum, he adds. While students will not be attending for fewer hours, their time spent in the school buildings will be structured differently.

“Our teachers need to look at their curriculum and pacing guide so we make sure we’re getting everything covered and we have to look at the standards that we are going to focus on,” he says.

“We are offering our teachers an opportunity to go visit a four-day campus and talk to the teachers.”

It’ll be a big change for all concerned, says the superintendent – and an exciting time for the district.

“The research and data and all the reading that you do supports a four-day week, so everybody is kind of excited for the change. But at the same time, when you change things, there are challenges,” he says.

“Our teachers will have to adjust how they teach and our parents and students are going to have to adjust their attendance and the importance of the school day now.”

The public meetings essentially mirrored the opinions expressed in the survey that was given to all teachers, staff members, parents and older students, Broderson continues. In Moorcroft, questions were raised about daycare and the impact on classified staff members; Hulett generally expressed support for a four-day week.

“At the end of each meeting, I would ask who was in favor and get a show of hands. In those two communities, the majority of people raised their hands,” he says.

“When I got to Sundance, it was not that way – there were more questions about daycare and we had some bus driver questions as well. Daycare was a hot topic.”

Broderson says he understands the worry. In most communities where a four-day week has been implemented, the daycare issue has sorted itself out, but he knows that’s not a concrete answer for a concerned parent.

However, he says, the district is more than happy to work with the community to solve the problem.
“The district is willing to offer space if somebody wants to run a daycare. We’ll work with them and try to make sure we get that covered,” he says.

“We do not want to be in the daycare business ourselves, but we certainly are willing to help.”

Broderson asks for understanding as the changes are made if a few bumps are found in the road.

“The school district is going to do the best job it can of implementing this so that it’s smooth and seamless and a good process for everybody, but we’re probably going to miss some things here or there – we haven’t done this before,” he says. “It won’t be intentional.”