SALT LAKE CITY — Starting this fall, Park Valley School in rural Box Elder County will operate under a four-day school week.
The Utah State Board of Education voted unanimously Friday afternoon to grant a three-year waiver of the state’s attendance rule to allow the school, which primarily serves children from ranch families, to switch from a five-day school week to the four-day model.
Hallie Kunzler, one of two licensed teachers at the school of 39 students, told the board that she believes school attendance will improve once the K-10 school moves to a four-day week.
Some students miss as much as a third of the school year because they are needed at home to help on their ranches, she said.
Sonya Spackman, whose three children who attend Park Valley School, said she and other ranch families are committed to sending their children to school four days a week and scheduling ranch activities that require their help and doctor's appointments on Fridays as much as possible.
“My three kids are in complete support, except for my 6-year-old that wants a one-day school week,” she joked.
As a parent, Spackman said she appreciates that her children’s education is important, and she is loathe to take them out of school to help on their ranch, which is 80 miles from Tremonton.
“They’re our hired men and women. A lot of times when things are happening, whether it’s branding, moving cows, cutting hay, hauling hay, there are times we have to take them out of school to help to keep the business going,” Spackman said.
“As a parent, I hate for them to miss school because education is extremely important to me, but there are times that they need to be at home helping. As a consequence of this, they miss a lot of school,” she said.
Someday, they will take over family ranches, “so this is their hands-on training for that,” Spackman said.
The waiver agreement between the Box Elder County School District and State School Board requires an annual report from the district to determine whether students’ scores on end-of-level tests “remain consistent or improve” over the next three years.
If the reports indicate deficiencies in student performance or achievement or increased costs to the school or district, it could result in termination of the agreement, according to board documents.
State School Board rules require local education to conduct school a minimum of 990 hours a year and 180 days each year. However, board policy also allows schools to seek waivers.