WENDELL • This school year, Wendell students will notice a difference in their Friday afternoons.

Last spring the Wendell school board decided to switch to a four-day school week for the 2013-14 school year after significant discussion, which included presentations from Gooding and Shoshone School Districts, who also operate on four-day week schedules.

“We looked at this four years ago and the board decided not to go ahead at the time,” said Wendell school district superindentent, Gregory Lowe. “I feel like we’re going into this now when others had challenges. We are able to see the obstacles. We can learn from what they faced.”

With school districts across Idaho continuing to experience difficulties with state budget cuts over the last several years, more disticts are looking at four-week schedules as an option. The Wendell School district now operates on $790,326 less per-year in state and county funding compared to 2009-2010.

At least 38 school districts and nine charter schools in the state will switch to four-day weeks this school year. Melissa McGrath, communications director with ISDE, more schools could be making the switch. The state Education Department hasn’t recieved reports from all of Idaho’s schools, she said.

Six more public and charter schools have confirmedt he switch to four-day schedules relative to last year.

Lowe said one of the top concerns that was brought up when considering the change was that it did not decrease instruction time. The state requires 990 hours in the classroom.

Lowe said, with a five-day weekly schedule, students received 1036 hours of instructional time. That number will remain the same with a four-day week.

Some students may even receive extra hours because the four-day week calendar provides 19 half-day Fridays that are set aside for certified teachers to work with small groups of students who need specific tutoring with reading, writing and math skills.

“We originally thought it would be for kids that need extra help, but it could for those who want that extra challenge,” Lowe said.

Teachers will also have 10 professional development days with training on the new Common Core State Standards and other instructional practices.

But Fridays don’t always have to be all work and no play.

There will also be six enrichment days throughout the year for students to participate in activities such as chess tournaments, ski trips, science investigations and field trips.

“It’s just for kids to come in and have fun,” Lowe said.

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