Longer school days will mean longer weekends for Powell students this year.
When students return for classes on Aug. 22, they’ll have a new 4.5-day school week, with every Friday afternoon off.
But that doesn’t mean students are going to be in class fewer hours.
“All the schools have a little more time added to their school day, Monday through Thursday,” said Jason Sleep, assistant superintendent for Park County School District No. 1.
By Friday afternoon, “they will have met their hours,” Sleep said.
The change allows school staff to meet for professional development on Friday afternoons instead of early-release Wednesdays, as they did in recent years.
Students are more likely to miss school on Fridays due to sports and other activities, especially at Powell High School.
Sleep said he thinks the switch from early-release Wednesdays to Fridays “is really going to help our academic time.”
“A Friday and a Wednesday aren’t equal time,” Sleep said. “Wednesday time is good instructional time, so we want to recapture that. I think the whole community kind of saw that vision.”
Kids are more present on Wednesdays, whereas on Fridays they might be thinking about the weekend or getting ready for a sporting event.
“And in Wyoming, we travel,” Sleep said.
A survey showed 88 percent of staff and community members favored early-release Fridays, and in March, the Powell school board unanimously approved the new schedule.
While students will get out early every Friday, teachers and other school staff will be using many of the afternoons for professional development.
Over the course of the school year, staff will meet on 17 Friday afternoons, working on school improvement goals, strategic planning, curriculum and assessment and other professional development.
“We’re going to try to keep growing our teachers based on what our goals are,” Sleep said.
Staff will do district-wide
ALICE training on an early-release Friday in September. The ALICE program — which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate — trains staff on how to respond in an active shooter scenario.
The in-service days were planned around sports teams’ home games so teachers who coach could still attend the training and professional development sessions.
Sleep said he thinks the new 4.5-day school week will be a good move for Powell schools.
“I think our time is going to be much more efficient,” he said.
On Fridays when staff members don’t have professional development, they will have the afternoon off.
Under the new schedule, office staff members’ Friday hours were adjusted to the 4.5 day week.
“We won’t always have someone to pick up the phone [on Friday afternoons],” Sleep said.
The new office hours will be advertised, he said.
For families and school staff, the new schedule is much more predictable. The early-release Wednesdays weren’t every week, making it difficult for some families to find childcare.
The church community will be providing activities for elementary school students on some Friday afternoons, Sleep said.
The school district also is looking at planning some activity days for elementary kids.
“It’s not every Friday. Parents still need to keep track of having some care set up for kids,” he said. “We’ll advertise in advance well enough so they can make decisions whether they want their son or daughter to participate in the activity or make their own plans.”
This year’s school calendar also is slightly different than previous years. Students will have a week-long spring break over Easter.
Going into the new school year, Sleep encouraged parents to take the time to read the newsletters from their child’s school.
“That’s our main source of communication,” he said.