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  Comments (1) Total Friday Apr. 25, 2014
More Montana Schools Adopting Shorter Weeks
As budget shrinks, Troy considers joining list of districts with four-day weeks
Teacher's aid Betty Mack helps a group of first graders with a math lesson earlier this year at the McCormick School outside of Troy. The school could follow Troy's school district in starting a four-day week. - File photo by Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon.
Faced with shrinking budgets, education officials in Troy are considering going to a four-day school week starting next year. Superintendent Dan Wendt said the district is asking for feedback from the public and the school board is expected to make a final decision in December.

The move to a four-day school week has become popular among rural schools across Montana. According to the Montana Office of Public Instruction, 31 public school districts and 53 schools total across the state currently have adjusted academic calendars. Instructors at rural schools that have made the change say the shorter weeks have been positive for students and budgets, but Wendt wants to gather more information before deciding Troy’s future.

“If we can improve student performance and make our school better, then I’m all for it. And if it can’t help, then I’m not for it,” he said. “The bottom line is we need to do what’s best for the students and the community of Troy.”

Up until 2005, Montana schools had to provide a minimum of 180 days of instruction to maintain accreditation. That year, Senate Bill 170 changed the requirement from a minimum number of days to a minimum number of hours, thus allowing schools to go to a four-day week. Montana Code Annotated 20-1-301 requires a minimum of 360 hours of instruction for half-time kindergarten; 720 hours for full-time kindergarten through grade 3; and 1,080 hours for grade 4 through 12. According to Montana OPI, a major benefit of the shorter week is that schools spend less money on heating buildings and transportation costs.

West Glacier Elementary changed its weekly schedule four years ago, and according to Principal Cory Pierce, his school does not plan on going back to a full week. He said the longer weekend benefits both staff and students.

“Students comes to school on Monday really energetic and energized and ready to learn,” he said.

Pierce said he has seen students excel with the new schedule and last year West Glacier Elementary earned 100 percent proficiency on state accreditation tests. In order to make up for the shorter week, classes start at 7:40 a.m. and continue until 4:05 p.m. Some parents held concerns that the school day would be too long for younger students, but Pierce said that’s not the case.

According to a 2011 study from Montana OPI, many schools that have made the switch reported improvements in attendance and discipline. It also stated schools were reporting savings in transportation, utilities, substitute pay and lunch budgets. The report concluded “almost every school feels the four-day school week fits its community like a glove and benefits everyone. Most would hate to return to the five-day week.”

Only two schools studied by Montana OPI between 2009 and 2011 returned to a full five-day schedule. During the same period, 15 more schools decided to adopt four-day classes. The 2011 report raised concerns, however, that the four-day schedule may not be beneficial to students with disabilities because of the longer days.

Wendt and the Troy school board must consider all of these factors before making a decision in early December. Also, changing the calendar in Troy could affect surrounding districts, including the tiny McCormick School on the Idaho border.

Because the Troy school district and McCormick coordinate bus routes, additional runs would need to be made if Troy starts school earlier. McCormick school board chairman Terry Holmes said the easiest option might be to join Troy in a four-day week. Holmes said when Troy first considered a shorter school week a few years ago, his board discussed doing the same. For now, Holmes said the board will wait and see what happens.

“In this day and age of tightening tax revenues, you’ve got to get as creative as you can get to provide for the kids,” Holmes said. “Personally, I think I’d be in favor of a four-day week.”
On 10-26-12, all of us in Libby commented....
In addition Lincoln county (home of Troy and Libby) need to realize that multiple “school districts” are a thing of the past. There is no sound reason why more than one school district needs to be in Lincoln County.  Administration duplication is depriving students of much…
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