Challis schools to go to four-day weeks
By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer
Is the four-day school week the wave of
the future for all school districts in Idaho?
The education budget has been contentious
the entire legislative session, including sponsorship by Rep. Eulalie Langford,
R-Montpelier, of an unsuccessful bill to have all Idaho schools go to four-day
Meanwhile in Challis, where there is a
$300,000 shortfall in the budget for next year, the school board has taken
matters into their own hands.
All the District 181 schools —Challis
high, middle and elementary schools, Clayton Elementary, Patterson Elementary
and Stanley School—will begin a Monday through Thursday four-day week in the
fall of 2003. There are 517 students in the district who will be affected.
Challis School District Superintendent
Vaughn Higbee said the new plan would initially save between $17,000 and $35,000
in salary and heating costs.
"It’s not a panacea for every district.
But the community rocked back on their heels. They’re willing to give us a
chance to make it work."
He added that other ways to make up the
budget loss are by not funding extracurricular activities like athletics. These
measures would save an additional $170,000. Cutting all aides and
paraprofessionals, except special education aides, saves another $70,000. And if
they closed the Challis Middle School and moved the students to the high school,
they’d save $100,000.
"So, we can find the dollars through cuts.
There are always solutions, but sometimes it’s very painful," Higbee said.
Challis High School Principal Randy
Maughan said so far reaction to a four-day week was not negative.
"The biggest response has been from those
on hourly salary: bus drivers, custodians. They’re losing a day’s work, and it
cuts into their benefits package."
Under the new plan the school day will be
lengthened by 56 minutes to meet Idaho’s requirement for 990 hours per year of
instructional time. The plan could work well in a number of ways, school
officials said. Extra- and co-curricular activities will be planned for Thursday
nights, Fridays, Saturdays and even Sundays.
Students and teachers are encouraged
strongly to plan doctor and dentist appointments on Fridays. When there is a
Monday holiday, school classes can run from Tuesday through Friday instead.
"We can be flexible so we can still meet
the 990 minimal," Maughan said.
"We hope to get more contact hours with
our students. Eighty percent of students participate in extracurricular
Because of Challis’ remote location—120
miles northeast of Ketchum—most games are played several hours away. Maughan
said a six-hour round trip with a two-hour game is the norm.
"We feel like it’s something all the
schools will be looking at. We’re all under the same constraints. Initially, we
looked at it as a money thing. We’re $300,000 in the red over the last few years
due to fewer students in the district," Maughan said.
"Now we feel it’s overridingly positive.
Teachers just need to go hunting or steelhead fishing on those Fridays."