Nampa trustees narrowly vote to adopt four-day schedule

Updated, 9:26 a.m. Wednesday, to correct survey data. 

In a split decision Tuesday, the Nampa school board voted to join more than 90 other Idaho school districts and charter schools in moving to a four-day school week. 

Nampa trustees deliberated for more than three hours before voting 3-2 to adopt a four-day calendar next school year. The move is strongly supported by district staff, and a majority of parents and students are on-board, according to a recent survey. 

With 13,500 students, Nampa becomes the largest Idaho school district to switch to four days, and it’s at least the third this year. The Emmett and Teton school boards have adopted four-day calendars for next year, as well. Coeur d’Alene was also considering it but is now reversing course.

Nampa school board chair Brook Taylor

Tuesday’s debate in Nampa — which centered on expanding teacher preparation time versus what could potentially go wrong on the new off day — split the board chair and vice chair. 

Chair Brook Taylor supported the initiative because it would give teachers an additional day to prepare curriculum. Taylor said she was encouraged to support the move after speaking with leaders of other districts that have adopted four-day weeks.

“Anything we do to improve the lives of our staff improves the lives of our children,” Taylor said. “There’s not one district that made this choice that has gone back.” 

Vice chair Jeff Kirkman, on the other hand, said he worried about the “unknowns,” particularly for low-income families that rely on school lunches. Kirkman also wondered whether teachers would “effectively” use the extra day. He argued the district should wait until the following school year when other recent changes — such as a new trimester schedule — have a firmer footing. 

“I don’t want this to…hinge on ‘the teachers need more time to prepare,’” Kirkman said. “Why can’t this wait until next year? Maybe, at that time, we can see where everything has fallen.”  

The district recently solicited feedback through a survey of more than 5,000 people — 3,178 parents and guardians, 943 staff members and 936 students. Overall, 60% of respondents said they support a four-day week, 34% said they’re opposed and 6% said they have no preference. 

The categories of responses broke down this way: 

  • Parents: 59% support, 36% oppose, 5% no preference
  • Staff: 73% support, 20% oppose, 7% no preference
  • Students: 50% support, 39% oppose, 11% no preference

Trustees on Tuesday pointed to support for the move, but they also heavily weighed whether local youth organizations can handle an influx of kids on an extra day per week. 

“We’re going to do what’s necessary, just like we did with Covid,” Melissa Gentry, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Nampa, assured the school board. The club, which is funded by donations and grants, already feeds kids during after-school programs, but transportation on the new off day could be a challenge, Gentry said. 

Nampa Superintendent Gregg Russell

Trustees also asked local law enforcement to weigh-in on the effects of 13,500 students being out of school on a weekday. Nampa Police Sgt. Jason Cantrell said the department doesn’t expect the status quo to change. “We’re going to deal with the kids…whether they’re in school, out of school.”

District administrators, meanwhile, touted the potential benefits of the four-day calendar: It will be a teacher recruitment and retention tool, and it would allow for longer, more in-depth class periods — between 70 and 75 minutes for high school classes, up from 60 minutes. The latter will give career technical education students more time to travel if they take CTE courses at a different school, Superintendent Gregg Russell said. 

Cost savings was not a consideration in the administration’s endorsement of the calendar, and the move won’t save the district a significant amount of money, Russell said. Trustees frequently cited a January memo from state superintendent Debbie Critchfield that warned against four-day weeks as a strategy to cut costs.

Additionally, House Bill 521 — a sweeping school facilities funding bill that deterred districts from switching to four days — no longer fettered Nampa’s decision. A follow-up bill to HB 521 softened language requiring new minimum instructional time to qualify for the facilities funding. Rather than minimum days, districts can also qualify by meeting minimum instructional hours. 

Nampa exceeds the minimum hours that are currently in state law, and it will likely exceed the forthcoming minimum hours tied to the facilities funding, even on a four-day schedule, Russell said. 

Critchfield and the other six members of the State Board of Education are scheduled to begin talks on the new minimums Wednesday.

Ryan Suppe

Ryan Suppe

Senior reporter Ryan Suppe covers education policy, focusing on K-12 schools. He previously reported on state politics, local government and business for newspapers in the Treasure Valley and Eastern Idaho. A Nevada native, Ryan enjoys golf, skiing and movies. Follow him on Twitter: @ryansuppe. Contact him at [email protected]

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