School board considers four-day week

Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

Weston County School District No. 1 leadership has prepared three different calendars for the 2023-24 school year, and the board of trustees is seeking public comment as they decide which one of them to approve.

“It is that time of the year. The sooner it is set the better. It helps with planning and staff development. I know from a curriculum standpoint, they would like to have it three months ago,” Superintendent Brad LaCroix said before presenting the calendar options at the board’s January 11 meeting. 

Option one is the now traditional calendar with early-release Fridays, option two is an alternative schedule with a four-day school week, and the third calendar is a hybrid of the two. 

The traditional calendar features a 185-day school year with 175 of those being student days. The other 10 are designated for staff development, according to LaCroix. 

In the four-day school week calendar, student days drop to 150, with the work days remaining at 185 for staff. The modified calendar, LaCroix said, includes 163 student days, with 185 days for staff. 

He noted before opening the topic for board discussion that he was not expecting a vote that evening, and that the principals would also seek comment from staff to bring back to the board before they are asked to make a decision. 

“For the future, if we are really going to go down the alternative route, we need a little bit more time,” LaCroix said, suggesting that the board may want to work through the option and not implement the four-day school week next school year. 

“One of the biggest concerns I have with the alternative calendar is the unknown impact on student learning, programming and hourly employees,” he said, noting that the hourly employees oppose the alternate schedule because it reduces the number of hours they work each week. Hourly employees include food, janitorial, technology, paraprofessionals and maintenance staff. 

“For me, in a nutshell — I’m not going to lie, it is above my head — but in the end many school districts are doing four-day weeks and I’m sure they had the same concerns,” trustee Jason Jenkins said. “... What are our concerns that are not answered by other districts that are holding us back?” 

According to LaCroix, these concerns include the block schedule used at Newcastle High School, as well as dual enrollment and concurrent classes offered through Eastern Wyoming College at the high school. He noted that these are programs offered in Newcastle that other school districts of similar size do not offer. 

Trustee Dana Mann-Tavegia further questioned the minimum professional development requirements for the state, noting that each of the calendars features a different number of days staff are required to be in the schools when students are not. 

“The teachers have talked about the need to work on classroom stuff instead of professional development,” she said. “What is the minimum to keep them up to date?”

LaCroix said he believes that the requirement is 10 staff development days. Curriculum director Sonya Tysdal added that the 10 staff development days is for the traditional calendar, noting that the alternative calendar rules are different. 

“You can add as many as you want in any format that you want,” she said, noting that some of the days can be used for professional development and others can be used for teachers to work on lesson plans and other classroom work. 

Mann-Tavegia said that she feels the district is overdoing it with the large number of days scheduled for staff development on the alternative schedule. She added that she would like some of those days designated for class preparation. 

“What you are misunderstanding is that these are not all professional development days. We heard loud and clear that the consensus is that what is being done in the evenings and on weekends should be made part of the five-day week, giving them Friday to do that,” said Tyler Bartlett, Newcastle Middle School principal. 

He noted that there will still be professional development but that all staff days will not be used for that purpose. 

“It falls on the administration to use that for the students and staff if that is the direction you choose to go,” Bartlett said. 

In addition to the staff’s concerns, trustee Sean Crabtree asked what the impact of one less school day per week would have on the challenged kids in the community. 

“From what I feel, our schools are full of challenged kids. Which draft would help those kids out the most?” he questioned. 


According to LaCroix, whether the kid is challenged or not, he always questions where the best place is for young people to be educated and he believes that is in the classroom. 

“I lean more towards the traditional.  … I like the idea of them (students) being here,” he said. “That is probably an old-fashioned stance.” 

Chairman John Riesland echoed LaCroix’s thoughts, stating that teachers being in front of the students will get the best response from said students. He noted that he would vote in favor of a traditional schedule over the alternative one because he doesn’t understand how the shortened school week would benefit kids.

“It still comes down to, if the student isn’t in the classroom learning from teachers, then what are they doing,” he said. “What does this really do for the education of students? How does this benefit our students, not our staff? We are big ladies and gentlemen. We can work through that (staff concerns).”

Other concerns mentioned by various people in attendance included the extended length of the school day in the alternate schedule and its impact on students, practices and other extracurricular activities, the impact one less school day would have on low-income students who eat at the schools, shared staff needs, the effects on different programs offered at the schools and the increased need for child care on Fridays. 

Jenkins suggested that while he doesn’t disagree with Riesland’s statements, he thinks that the board should leave the decision up to the teachers. 

“Tell me what would work best for them and the schools. It is safe to say they have those students in mind,” Jenkins said. 

Newcastle High School student body president Gabby McVay said that students see pros and cons to both schedules. 

“Teachers are the ones in the school doing it. They are human as well,” she said, noting that if the teachers are reaping the benefits, it will have a positive impact on students. 

“Take that into consideration, understand what is going on in the classroom,” McVay said. “Do they have enough time to plan for class? Take that into consideration when making the new schedule.” 

Tysdal said that when the schedules are developed, input is received and the very first consideration is always what is best for students and their learning. She noted that there is and never will be consensus on which option is preferred among staff. 

“Not all buildings agree. Different buildings (schools) have different needs,” she said, adding that students are put first and then they consider what will help teachers out before the proposals are brought to the board. 

“It really is a difficult thing,” LaCroix said. “There is a learning curve between kindergarten and senior needs.” 

While staff opinion is always sought, trustee Paul Bau asked whether parent input has been sought as well. 

LaCroix said that would be part of the process required to implement a four-day week. In addition to addressing all the concerns brought forward, the district is required to hold two public hearings. Bartlett noted that application for an alternative schedule must be made with the Wyoming Department of Education, which considers the applications during its June meeting. 

“Moving forward, let’s continue to research more as a board,” Riesland said, noting that the four-day week is not likely something the district could implement for the upcoming 2023-24 school year.

In an email to the News Letter Journal, Bartlett clarified that the district could apply to begin the four-day school week in the 2023-24 school year, but that it would be “somewhat scary” waiting until June 2023 to have an official school calendar. 

“If this is something the community and district wants to pursue, it may be prudent to start with the 24-25 calendar, which the State Board of Education could also approve at the same June meeting, given the other requirements have been met,” he said in the email. 

These requirements, according to a checklist from the state education department, includes education objectives, a description of the schedule and a copy of the calendar, evidence of meeting the required hours — 900 for elementary school, 950 for middle school and 1,000 for high school — the method of evaluating how student learning has improved, evidence of at least two public meetings held prior to submission of the proposal and a copy of public comment records. 

The board agreed to continue to discuss the topic and engage parents in the decision-making process. 

Anyone wishing to comment on their preferred schedule and the four-day school week can contact Newcastle Elementary School Principal Brandy Holmes at, Bartlett at, Newcastle High School Principal Bryce Hoffman at, Tysdal at, LaCroix at or board secretary Celo Dickey at


(To view this discussion go to the News Letter Journal’s YouTube Channel and watch the Weston County School District #1 Board of Trustees Meeting January 11, 2023 video posted there.)

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