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Another Idaho school district moves to a four-day week next year. Here’s why

In World
April 17, 2024

Students in the Nampa School District will move to a four-day school week beginning next school year, joining a growing number of districts across Idaho that have made the same switch to retain educators and save money.

After a three-hour discussion, the Nampa school board Tuesday night voted 3-2 to move forward with the new schedule, despite concerns over how the move would impact families who rely on schools for food, child care and resources five days a week.

Nampa officials said the recommendation wasn’t made for financial reasons, but that the move could help keep qualified teachers, give students longer time in class periods and potentially increase attendance.

“Teachers are the No. 1 impact of student achievement,” Superintendent Gregg Russell said during the meeting. “If this helps us get the best teachers we absolutely can, then for me as an administrator, I think that’s really important.”

Nampa trustees wary of more changes

The move will mark another change for the district after the board voted in December to close four of its schools beginning next school year because of decreasing enrollment and deteriorating facilities that would require money to fix, according to previous Idaho Statesman reporting. Some of those buildings will be repurposed for other programs. The district is also moving to a trimester class schedule for high school students, in part for financial reasons.

The decision to move to the four-day week also comes after the Idaho Legislature passed a $2 billion bill on funding school facilities that will require districts to meet a minimum amount of instructional time to receive millions of dollars to repair their schools. The State Board of Education must adopt standards on the minimum required instructional days and hours by Aug. 1.

Trustee Jeff Kirkman, who voted against the four-day week, said the district should wait to see how the other changes they’re navigating work before making another drastic shift.

“I don’t think this is going to be a soft landing for our community, for those students who need that extra day of school, for the parents who have to work,” Kirkman said. “We’re throwing a lot at them.”

Russell said none of the districts Nampa administrators talked with said the move to a four-day week was a poor decision.

“If I felt it was going to really hurt our school district,” he said, “I wouldn’t recommend it.”

‘This is about student success’

Still, some trustees raised concerns about how the decision would affect the community and questioned why the district wanted to move forward with it now.

Some trustees said they worried about kids being in school for longer days than they’re used to. The suggested schedule would have elementary students in school for 7.5 hours per day, and would release them at 4:21 p.m., while secondary students would be in school for slightly over eight hours per day and get out at 3:36 p.m. Both times are about an hour later than when students are released now.

Others were concerned about how children would get food if they weren’t in school one day per week and what child care options were available to parents who work full-time. The district said there were a number of services in the area that could help provide resources and child care to families, including the Boys & Girls Club and the Y.

Trustee Stephanie Binns said she’s particularly worried about the “kids on the edge” whose families might not qualify for other benefits but rely on schools to provide meals during the week. “It’s those kids on the edge … that weigh heavily on my heart,” she said.

Trustees who voted in favor of the change said it would be beneficial for students and teachers, and it was something the community wanted.

Before the vote, the Nampa School District surveyed the community and found a majority of parents, students and teachers supported eliminating the fifth day of the week. Nearly three-quarters of the more than 900 staff members and a majority of the parents who responded said they’d support the change. Half of the 925 students wanted to move to the four-day week.

Board Chair Brook Taylor said the change will give teachers more time to prepare and plan for their classes. Other districts that have moved to four-day weeks have had success, she said. Superintendents across the state have told lawmakers that moving to a four-day week has been beneficial and widely supported in their communities.

“To me, this is about student success,” Taylor said. “Everything that I could find, there is not one district that’s made this choice that’s gone back.”

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