HARRISBURG — The Banner County Public Schools board has approved the district’s transition to a four-day school week.
The shorter week, approved unanimously, will take effect during the 2019-20 academic year. Students will attend Monday through Thursday, but they will still be able to come on Fridays for enrichment activities.
To ensure that 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. Preschool will not be affected by this change.
About 20 people spoke on the change at the board’s meeting this week. Some 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.”
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.”
She added, “A con is extending the school day, especially for people who ride the bus. 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 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,” Browne said. “The possibilities are giving us all goose bumps.”
Browne said the Friday enrichment will enable students to go on field trips, build computers, use 3D printers and learn about robotics during longer sessions than a typical school day allows.
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 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.”
Board member Larry Pahl said optional Fridays is “the outside-of-the-box thinking that we need.”
Browne said the district’s operating expenses will drop roughly from $20,000 to $12,000. Aside from saving money, Browne hopes that the four-day week will entice students to transfer to the district.