SALT LAKE CITY — Three small, remote schools in the Tooele County School District will switch to four-day weeks next fall under waivers approved by the Utah State Board of Education.
Currently, schools in Dugway, Vernon and Ibapah conduct school five days a week under the state's attendance standard of 990 hours and 180 days a year.
But Tooele school officials requested a waiver from the State School Board's rule for several reasons, which included higher absences on Fridays compared to other days and hour-long commutes for some students and teachers and to match up with Dugway Proving Ground's four-day work week.
"There's also a ranching community out there, so I know some of those students go to help their parents (on school days). They said if they could get that additional day, it would really help just as a community," said Marie Denson, communications director for the Tooele County School District.
The State School Board granted the waivers during its meeting on Thursday. While the school week will be shortened by one day, the schools will schedule longer school days the remaining days of the week to comply with the state's 990-hour attendance requirement.
Schools in five rural school districts and two charter schools have received waivers to conduct school four days a week, with one exception granted as early as 2006.
"The implementation of the four-day week will allow families in these rural communities to plan medical and other appointments on the day school is not in session," a letter from Tooele County School District Superintendent Scott Rogers to the State School Board and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson.
Each of the three Tooele District schools is very small and in remote locations.
The smallest of the three, Vernon Elementary School, has just 24 students.
The parents of several students who attend the school work at Dugway Proving Ground, which is on a four-day, 10-hour work week.
"The four-day week would allow the students of these parents to be on a more similar schedule," application documents state.
It notes that some students have left the school in Vernon to attend classes in the Tintic School District, which is already on a four-day schedule "because it is a better fit for their family’s schedules."
Patrons of Dugway Schools, which serve 121 students in grades K-12, also sought the four-day week to correspond with work schedules at the Army installation.
The change would help with teacher recruitment and retention "because it is a long drive for most of the staff. The four-day week would save them some time away from their families and fuel costs," documents state.Comment on this story
The Ibapah Elementary School community requested the waiver to help improve school attendance by scheduling medical or dental appointments on Fridays. The school serves 35 students. In January, the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation passed a resolution urging a change in the school week.
"Our livelihood of ranching requires help from our children to do some of our work. It will help the staff with babysitting issues," the application states.
The school district expects to save money by spending less on school busing and nutrition programs.
The school district's letter to the State School Board said data will be collected “to ensure students are progressing and not regressing. Data will be presented to our board of education after each quarter for accountability.”