Garfield School District officials want to see their schools return to a four-day week.
Their authority to schedule school days was changed by a state mandate. They want legislators to pass a law allowing them to fit the school-day schedule to their needs. A bill is being drafted by State Rep. Tom Hatch, R-Panguitch.Many educators in rural south-central Utah, particularly in the smaller, more remote districts, appear to favor a four-day school week. Wayne, Piute and Garfield districts held schools on four-day schedules before the mandate by the State Board of Education.
Educators in all three districts report satisfaction with the four-day week, and many say they would like to do so again.
Their principal argument has been that there was less disruption in schools, claiming it is difficult to conduct classwork on Fridays when so many students are absent because of involvement in athletic and other regional and state competition.
The time required in the classroom was met without holding school on Fridays by extending hours on the other days. Students and teachers went to school a little earlier in the mornings, took shorter noon hours, and stayed a little longer in the classrooms Mondays through Thursdays.
Extracurricular activities were held on Fridays.
Hatch said he agrees that state government should have authority over curriculum and in some other areas. But he believes scheduling should be left to local districts so they can better meet their special needs.
"If we're successful in changing the law so that local school boards have more control, we want to be certain sufficient safeguards are included that would prevent any abuse of that control," the legislator said.
Garfield School District Superintendent Earl Roe believes the state board's decision in mandating a minimum 990 classroom hours and 180 days in a school year was made to avoid potential problems in northern school districts. But he added that the decision created problems for rural districts where students must travel great distances for athletic and other competition.
He said the only alternative left for the Garfield District after the state board's decision was to face 11 months of school four days per week or return to a five-day week. The district adopted a 41/2-day week.
To meet that requirement, a schedule was adopted at Bryce Valley and Escalante high schools that seems to be work fairly well. One-hour afternoon classes are held four days a week and 45-minute classes are in session during the mornings five days per week.
Garfield school board member Marc McLemore said he opted for a five-day week when running for re-election to the office but has moderated his opinion because constituents appear to prefer the four-day schedule.
His chief concern is that the state has "stripped local autonomy" and he accuses the state school board of being "brazen" in its actions. McLemore said the state should be equally strong in protecting local rights as it is in its strong stand for state's rights.
Hatch said he would also like to see the Utah High School Activities Association schedule region and state meets that would better adapt to the goals of school districts, where many educators say academic success is contingent on keeping students in the classrooms.