WCSD No. 1 moving to early release Fridays

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

Weston County School District No. 1 is saying goodbye to late-start Wednesdays and hello to early-release Fridays after the board of trustees approved an updated calendar for the 2021-22 school year on March 31. 

Instead of starting school almost two hours late on Wednesdays, Newcastle Elementary School will release students at 1:30 p.m., while Newcastle Middle School and Newcastle High School will release students at 1:45 p.m. The district clarified that if for some reason school was to start late on a Friday, the students would remain in school until normal release times. 

According to Super-intendent Brad LaCroix and Chairwoman Tina Chick, several variables played a role in the decision to move from a late-start to an early-release day. Both said that, despite rumors, early-release Fridays are not necessarily a precursor to a four-day school week in the future.

“Philosophically, four-day school weeks are my nemesis. However, the building principals felt that two things — No. 1, late-start Wednesdays become complex at the elementary school because of day care,” LaCroix said. “And two, there are roundup issues at the middle school with some students having to come in early because they have nowhere to go.” 

Chick added that moving to a four-day school week would require longer days, which would be difficult for students, and that children need the consistency, safety and security that school provides. 

“Having said that, as we listened to the talk of the administrators and principals, it became clear that late starts can be difficult, especially for the younger kiddos,” she said. 

Despite the change having potential positive impacts in several areas, LaCroix said that there are concerns with releasing students early on Friday, although the concerns are not as great as those with a four-day school week. 

“My concern will always be for those that have to go home to an empty house,” he said. “Hopefully the community can do some small-group things to help out.” 

He noted that Doubles AAces could potentially help fill a gap with its afternoon program, but at this time nothing is set in stone. 

Another concern, according to both Chick and LaCroix, is making sure teachers have enough time to work with their peers while addressing their needs during the school week. 

“We have to do what we need to do for the kids, but we also have to find balance,” LaCroix said. 

“We want to make sure teachers have enough time, time to meet with the peer groups and time to get the information and education they need,” Chick added. 

Ample time for student intervention and remediation is also a concern to school officials. Both Chick and LaCroix said that adjusting the calendar will take some time to get used to and that solutions will come as problems arise. 

Even though there are concerns and issues that will have to be addressed as the district changes the calendar, Chick said she hopes that an early-release Friday will help solve some of the activity concerns that prompted the desire for a four-day school week. 

“I think this will address some of the activity concerns to some extent,” Chick said, noting that students participating in activities will miss less school on Friday afternoons, while middle and elementary school students won’t miss out on a whole day.

According to Chick, four-day advocates maintain that students who participate in activities would miss less school if there were no school on Fridays. She explained that this is only true for high school students who participate in extracurricular activities. 

“Middle school students in activities are missing Tuesdays and Thursdays for games, and then they would lose Fridays too,” Chick said. “That has been my concern all along.” 

LaCroix added that he has always been a firm believer that schools are a good place for kids.

“We just hope this is successful and that we see benefits for students and families,” Chick said.

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