Midwest School has proposed a four-day schedule to improve its students' achievements and resolve some of the difficulties a small school encounters with extra-curricular activities.
"It will improve our attendance," Principal Chris Tobin said after she, teachers, and parents of students made their pitch to the Natrona County School District board of trustees at a work session Monday.
"We have longer blocks of instructional time, and the motivation is there for kids to complete work and do it right the first time so they can have a three-day weekend," Tobin said.
Midwest School has 162 students, 28 certified staff and 20 classified staff including bus drivers, she said. About half of the students commute from Casper, she added.
Tobin told the board the school has had a history of high staff turnover and attendance issues in part because of athletics. When a team has to travel on Friday, those students who aren't on a team figure they'll be only among a handful in the classroom, so they just don't attend.
School performance is not making the required targets, and too many students have Ds and Fs, she said.
Absences are high. When school officials looked at absences by day of the week, Fridays were the highest, Tobin said.
Surveys of students, parents and staff showed overwhelming support for the four-day schedule, with a "focus Friday" for students who need help with their studies.
Midwest, however, is not breaking new ground in Wyoming education with a four day schedule, because 11 of 22 schools in the state with fewer than 100 students already operate on a four-day schedule, Tobin said.
Fifth-grade teacher Liz Fauber told the board Kaycee School adopted the alternative schedule two years ago, and the numbers of Ds and Fs dropped dramatically. "They had nothing but good to say about motivation.
The Little Snake River School near Baggs has had a four-day schedule for nine years, and its achievement targets and graduation rates have soared, Fauber said.
The board welcomed the proposal.
Trustee Clark Jensen said if Midwest School succeeds, other schools in the district may be interested.
Whether Midwest School will save money by going to this schedule remains to be seen, Tobin said. The school still will operate five days a week because it will have bus service, serve breakfast and lunch, and teachers and staff will work the same number of hours, she said.
Midwest School will make its second public presentation April 25, and submit the proposal to the State Department of Education by May 1, Tobin said.

State officials probably will make their decision by June or July. If approved, Midwest School would start its new schedule in the fall.
Tobin is optimistic.
"The comment that has been made is if your community supports it, if your building supports it, your district, chances are that when it goes to the state department it will be supported as well," she said.

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