Rock River School could soon take its first step toward a four-day school week, if the Albany County School District No. 1 Board of Education approves an alternative schedule application in March.
During a presentation at Wednesday night’s School Board meeting, Rock River School Principal Wade Fiscus said the switch would better allow the school to honor instructional time and teacher collaboration.
“I think that this actually helps us honor the whole learning process all the way through, because we get to focus on those other two pieces,” he said. “So, the learning process at Rock River will, I think, be enhanced because of that.”
During the 2015-2016 school year, the largest percentage of staff absences — 125 out of 390 total absences— occurred Fridays, significantly more than any other day of the week, he said. The same trend occurred with students, with 675 of 1,841 absences occurring Fridays.
“Moving to a four-day-week allows us the opportunity to not miss school on Fridays,” Fiscus said. “We do extend the day, but it will decrease the number of times we miss school from Monday-Thursday. And that’s usually what happens, and that’s what the research shows.”
Under the proposed schedule, junior and senior high school students would spend an additional 45 minutes in school Mondays-Thursdays, while elementary school students would spend an additional 30 minutes in school. With a four-day-week schedule, teachers could also spend at least one Friday a month focusing on staff development, Fiscus said.
He indicated switching to a four-day week would potentially save $15,000 in substitute teacher costs and $6,000 in transportation costs, improve morale and allow snow days to be made up on a Friday, rather than adding days to the end of the school year.
A survey of about 28 community members showed 96 percent would support a four-day week at Rock River, with respondents suggesting the change would improve attendance, reduce athletic impact to instructional time and provide more time for teachers to prepare classes.
“We feel that this structure move is really important to our school and would provide us an opportunity to do a lot of things that we can’t really focus on right now,” Fiscus said.
School Board Trustee Lawrence Perea asked Fiscus if he anticipated a “mad rush” from Laramie to Rock River if the change goes into effect, suggesting students in ACSD No. 1 would want to participate in a four-day school week.
“It would be nice for us to have a few more kids to do things with and make sure we fill some of the elective pieces that aren’t there right now, but I certainly can’t predict how far-reaching that would be,” Fiscus said. “I do think, with the four-day week, I think we have a better chance of retaining teachers, and for us at Rock River, that is a critical piece for us to maintain programs.”
ACSD No. 1 Superintendent Jubal Yennie said the School Board would vote on the matter at its upcoming meeting March 8 — the deadline for school districts to submit an alternative schedule request and documentation to the Wyoming Department of Education.
“If the board doesn’t support that at that point, then we can certainly pull (the application) from the state department,” Yennie said.