by George Thompson, Reporter and Farmer
After months of wrangling back and forth, the Webster Area School Board finally acted on the issue of continuing a four-day school week.
What patrons will get, and the board terms “a compromise,” is a modified school calendar – meaning students will go to class six more Fridays a year. The new calendar adds six instructional days that are planned for the first Friday of the month.
Supporters of the modified schedule argue Webster students don’t have enough classroom time, and achievement will only get better with more class time.
According to research, Webster ranks 31st out of the 38 four day schools in the state for the amount of instructional time. By adding six more days to the schedule (going from 156 to 162), the district will now be in the middle of the rankings rather than seventh from the bottom for instructional time.
“I think we’ve come up with a better solution,” commented board member Tom Sannes, an outspoken supporter of more classroom time. “It’s time we put this away for a couple of years.”
But board member Randy Ryan, who favors a four day week, challenged Sannes’ assumptions, pointing out that adding instructional days will come at the expense of teacher-student self-help sessions which he believes are critical to student achievement.
“Things are going well now,” Ryan argued. “Don’t chop a third of the one-on-one days out. You’re (the board) turning a blind eye to all of those people who filled out those surveys” (many of whom like the four day week).
Superintendent Jim Block noted that if the board is determined to see more contact time without extending the school day, “this is almost necessary.”
“We’ve discussed this now for six months,” commented board president Mark Hanson, after about a half hour of discussion. “It’s time to call for a vote.”
On a roll call, the new (modified schedule) school calendar was approved by a 4-1 margin. Ryan was the lone dissenter.