TERRETON — The push for a four-day school week in the West Jefferson School District appears to be dead — at least for now.
At a board meeting last Thursday, trustees made no motion to either drop or adopt the measure, which patrons polarized over earlier this year. Superintendent Dwight Richins and trustees say the board’s lack of action signaled the district’s intent to keep its five-day model.
(Idaho Education News’ award-winning reporter Kevin Richert investigated four-day school weeks in Idaho and its effects on children and rural communities. Click here to read the 11-story series.)
Local four-day supporters say no official decision during Thursday’s meeting sends a mixed message.
“It was a copout if you ask me,” said patron Kaid Hall. “I feel like [board members] doing nothing was a good example of them covering for themselves. It would have been better to come to a vote either way than to just table it.”
A months-long debate over the issue came to a head during a school board meeting last month, as locals lined up to either voice concerns or share their support for the proposed change. Supporters want the flexibility that comes with a three-day weekend. Those opposed cite a lack of research surrounding the value of a shortened school week, as well as financial burdens placed on hourly-paid bus drivers and lunch personnel who work fewer hours under a four-day model.
Board members spent weeks gathering input but could not reach a consensus.
Trustee Bruce Smith believes the four-day supporters represent a minority faction of the district and many are misinformed.
“A good share don’t have a clue about the four-day petition that went around,” he said.
Board chair Ryan Ashcraft said he supports the four-day measure and that he was “surprised as anyone” about trustees’ lack of action last week.
“As chairman, I can’t make a motion or second a motion,” he said. “I was hoping for it — like a lot of other people — but it never came.”
Regardless of the riff between board members and patrons, Richins confirmed in a recent Facebook post that the district will move forward with a five-day model.
This was the second failed attempt in five years to adopt a four-day model — something that’s become routine for rural districts across Idaho since the Great Recession.
Hall said: “I doubt this will all go away. It’s something that a lot of folks out here still feel is best for our district.”
West Jefferson is located 30 miles northwest of Idaho Falls.