The Piute County School District is set to move to a four-day school week next year after the Utah State Board of Education last week approved a request for the transition.

District Superintendent Koby Willis said that the move was made for a few different reasons. One of those, Willis said, is historic. The district operated on a four-day school week for about 20 years from the 1980s to 2002.

"In Piute, it was still a very popular idea and something that — when they heard it was a possibility to go back — was a popular idea," Willis said.

Another reason is based on saving instruction time.

"When we add up the number of hours that we spend on athletics ... the number of hours that we miss for athletics versus the number that we will miss under a four-day school week, we're going to be in class a lot more on the four-day school week," Willis said. "There's so many sporting activities and other school activities that take place on Fridays that it's going to allow us to focus a little bit more on instruction."

This is especially true for the 311 students of the three schools — Circleville Elementary School, Oscarson Elementary School and Piute High School — located in the rural, remote district where even a trip to the grocery store (there isn't one in Piute County) may constitute an entire day.

Additionally, a four-day school week would allow students to be exposed to more, something that Willis said is a big priority for the district.

"In Piute County, there's a limit to how many careers our students get exposed to. The biggest employer is the school district (and) most of our citizens have some type of self-employment in agriculture or work for an employer in agriculture and there's just not a lot of opportunity for them to even see other occupations in action," Willis said. "Giving them more opportunities to leave the county and be exposed to some of these things is going to be a great educational benefit that we can't always provide within school time."

In a district that's as spread out as Pitue, one extra day a week can quickly add up to lots of time.

"The bus ride from Koosharem to Piute High School is one of the longest bus rides in Utah," the district wrote in its request to the board. "The four-day school week removes well over 50 hours on a school bus for these students in a school year. This is valuable time that could be used for family, homework or other activities that contribute to a child's development."

Willis said that the decision isn't financially motivated, as the district isn't expecting any cost savings with the change.

He added that the district plans to fully implement a four-day school week for the 2023-2024 school year.

Elementary schools in the district — Circleville Elementary School and Oscarson Elementary School — will add 35 minutes to their days and operate from 7:55 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Piute High School will add 30 minutes, operating from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Willis said that there won't be any changes to compensation for district employees.

"We've calculated all the hours for every position and then just reallocated them over different days, so everybody is going to be working the same number of annual hours that they are currently," Willis said.

Additionally, Willis added that teachers will work "roughly" every other Friday. So far, the reception to the change has been positive among the community, staff members and students.

"They're pretty excited about it," Willis said. "The community didn't really want to leave it."