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Buhl schools mull 4 day week

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Buhl High School

Buhl High School is pictured in August 2014.

BUHL — The school board is exploring the option of holding classes four days per week as an increasing number of rural school districts make the switch from the traditional five-day week.

Buhl School Superintendent David Carson shared information and fielded questions about the process at a meeting Tuesday at Buhl High School. Carson hopes to get feedback from parents, school staff and students through upcoming surveys and board meetings.

“I’m not here to advocate one way or another,” Carson said. “This meeting, the intent is to just get some basic information.”

The superintendent presented details about the possible change, then spent more than an hour listening to a community conversation about how it might affect the school district as a whole.

The school board will begin gathering surveys from parents, students and staff through October before holding a public hearing in November. Ultimately, the decision is up to the board, Carson said.

After evaluating community interest in the change, the board is expected in late November to make a decision on whether to change the long-held class schedule.

It’s a complicated prospect for any school.

Several Buhl parents, staff and administrators raised questions about how lengthier school days might impact family time, as the rural geography already has some kids catching the bus at 6 a.m. and returning home at 6 p.m.

Some parents expressed concerns that the one weekday with no school would create a need to arrange for childcare for many families. Still others mentioned concern that, with 81% of kids in the district below the poverty line, there would be an extra day with no food for many kids.

Others touted the benefits of the four-day class schedule, citing increased teacher and student satisfaction and more family time for both.

One of the incentives to switching to four days, the district said, would be greater recruitment and retention of good teachers.

Anecdotal evidence reflects that teachers in such districts feel well compensated, and in many cases would opt to take a job in a four-day week district over a similar job in a district with the traditional five-day class schedule, if everything else was equal.

According to a story from Idaho Ed News, 81 out of Idaho’s 126 school districts and charter schools have switched to a four-day week, with still more evaluating the switch.

Castleford, Bliss, Gooding, Shoshone, Hansen and Wendell are just a few of the 15 neighboring school districts that have already gone to a four-day week.

Buhl, Twin Falls, Jerome and Filer districts remain on a five-day schedule.

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