Whiting High School counselor Jessica Huhn-Taylor and administrative assistant Bill Hankins discuss the plan to move the alternative high school onto a four-day school week during the April 10 school board meeting.

Whiting High School, Laramie’s alternative high school, is planning a move to a four-day school week this fall.

Whiting hosted a public meeting for parents Wednesday regarding the change, and Albany County School District No. 1 will need to make a formal application to the Wyoming Department of Education by May.

The proposed change would add 45 minutes to the school day, and a free day for staff on Fridays would allow the school more time to work toward becoming a designated Trauma Responsive School and developing competency-based core curriculum.

Each month, there would typically be two of those “teacher work days,” where students could come in to get extra help from staff.

When the school board signed off on the proposed calendar April 10, Whiting school officials said the change would help provide more out-of-class support for students. Having Fridays off, the board members said, would also help their students maintain employment and keep up with their overall well-being.

Whiting counselor Jessica Huhn-Taylor told the school board many of the school’s students need “extended medical services” and seek outside counseling.

“I am their chauffeur a lot of the time, so that way I can be in the building when we have students in the building, and that way we can get them where they need to be on Friday,” Huhn-Taylor said.

According to a memo from Principal Scott Shoop, at least 52 percent of Whiting students have full-time or part-time jobs.

The memo says a four-day week would help Whiting’s students compete with University of Wyoming students for more favorable work schedules.

Bill Hankins, administrative assistant at Whiting, said that estimate of working students is “very conservative.”

“The majority of our students, if they don’t have paying jobs, they have other responsibilities, given their circumstance, that we would consider work,” he said.

Huhn-Taylor said the response from Whiting parents, as of April 10, had been “100 percent positive.”

“Anytime I reach out to parents, they are completely on board because we trying to provide more time for support for our students outside of their academic day,” Huhn-Taylor said.

Rock River School moved to a four-day school week in 2017 largely as a way to improve attendance.

As with Whiting High School students, Rock River Principal Jeremy Qualls told the school board last week a five-day week also made it difficult for Rock River students to attend things like doctor’s appointments without missing school.

By the end of February, the attendance rate at Rock River was comparable to the rate two years ago when the school was on a five-day schedule.

However, Qualls said in a report to the board the current attendance rate of 92 percent is still very positive “considering the tremendous amount of illness we have had this year district-wide.”

“Thus far, increased collaboration and increased (professional development) that has been implemented with fidelity thanks to ability have teacher workdays on some of the Fridays students are not in attendance,” Qualls said. “These Fridays have also helped with activities’ sponsors being gone to activities as we have not had to hire substitutes who also receive mileage to come out to Rock River.”

The school board also signed off this month on Rock River’s proposal to continue with a four-day week for at least another two years.

Rock River students’ standardized test scores typically trail behind their Laramie counterparts, but Qualls noted his students’ test scores have been improving steadily in the past two years.

“We do anticipate a gain in our ACT scores as our schedule has allowed us the opportunity to add a component of ACT-specific preparation,” Qualls wrote in his memo. “The decrease in the failure rate at the high school as well as the percentage increase of students showing proficiency is the result can be tied teacher collaboration, examining assessment data, and a more intentional focus on Tier 1 instruction along with the implementation of our (intervention and enrichment) period.”

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