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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of April 23 - 29, 2003


Challis schools to go to four-day weeks

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 weeks.

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 activities."

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."


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