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Another Idaho school district is moving to a four-day week next year. This is why

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

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

Nampa officials said the recommendation was not made for financial reasons, but the move could help retain qualified teachers, provide students with longer class periods and potentially increase attendance.

“Teachers are the greatest influence on student achievement,” Superintendent Gregg Russell said during the meeting. “If this helps us get the best teachers that we absolutely can, then I think that’s very important to me as an administrator.”

Nampa officials are 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 starting next school year due to declining enrollment and deteriorating facilities that would require money to repair, according to previous reports from Idaho Statesman. Some of these buildings will be reused for other programs. The district is also moving to a trimester class schedule for high school students, partly for financial reasons.

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

Trustee Jeff Kirkman, who voted against the four-day week, said the district should wait to see how the other changes they are dealing with work before making another drastic change.

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

Russell said none of the Nampa district administrators he spoke to said the move to a four-day work week was a bad decision.

“If I felt like it would really hurt our school district,” he said, “I wouldn’t recommend it.”

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‘This is about student success’

Still, some administrators expressed concern about the decision’s impact on the community and questioned why the district wanted to move forward with it now.

Some administrators said they were concerned about children attending school for longer days than they were used to. Under the proposed schedule, elementary school students would be in school 7.5 hours a day and would be released at 4:21 p.m., while middle school students would be in school for just over eight hours a day and would leave at 3:36 p.m. Both times are approximately one hour later than when students are released now.

Others were concerned about how children would get food if they missed school one day a week and what childcare options were available for parents who work full-time. The district said there are a number of services in the area that can help provide resources and childcare to families, including the Boys & Girls Club and the Y.

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

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

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

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

“To me, this is about student success,” Taylor said. “All I could find is that there is not a single district that has made this choice and has backslid.”

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