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3 North Dakota school districts approved for 4-day weeks

3 North Dakota school districts approved for 4-day weeks

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Three more North Dakota school districts will join the growing number operating on four-day weeks.

State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler on Thursday approved the schools' applications to transition to four-day weeks in the 2020-21 school year.

They are: 

  • Hillcrest Seventh-Day Adventist Elementary in Jamestown
  • White Shield School District
  • Mandaree School District

Eight Mile School District in Trenton also had applied by the March 1 deadline, but its application is still under review and the state Department of Public Instruction has requested additional information, department spokesman Dale Wetzel said.

More rural North Dakota schools opting for 4-day week

White Shield Superintendent Wayne Fox said the school will begin its four-day week on Aug. 19, the first day of classes in the 2020-21 year.

"I think we've been talking about it for a little over a year now," he said. "And to finally get it going and to get it up and approved, it's one of our goals."

He said the new structure will have benefits such as increased learning time in longer class periods, more time to help students struggling with academics or attendance and more time in the curriculum for Sahnish culture, as well as science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

White Shield has 151 K-12 students and is located on the Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota.

Twelve schools in North Dakota are on four-day weeks for at least part of the current school year, up from six last year. All but one of those are public schools. 

School districts already operating on four-day weeks have until July 1 to apply for an initial one-year extension or an additional five-year extension.

The provision in state law allowing for four-day weeks has been around since at least 1999. But it wasn't until 2014 that East Fairview and Dunseith became the first school districts in the state to adopt it.

A move by the 2019 Legislature made it easier for schools to implement a four-day week by shifting how yearly minimum instruction time is tracked, to hours rather than days. That gave schools more flexibility. 

Proponents of the four-day school week say it improves attendance, appeals to teachers who may not otherwise choose to work in that district, and can help cut costs. Opponents argue that longer school days may be harmful to students, and that finding child care for younger children on weekdays is difficult on families. 

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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