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More ND School Districts Testing 4-Day Weeks

In addition to the 11 public school districts already approved, three more North Dakota districts have applied for a four-day-a-week schedule. (Adobe Stock)
In addition to the 11 public school districts already approved, three more North Dakota districts have applied for a four-day-a-week schedule. (Adobe Stock)
March 2, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. -- The number of North Dakota school districts moving to a four-day academic week has doubled in the past year - and more districts have applied to alter their schedules next year. The trend has surfaced primarily in rural parts of the state.

Superintendent David Goetz runs the Wing Public School District, a district with one small high school. He said they're testing the approach in March and April to see if it's worth trying out for the whole school year. In a state known for its brutal winters, Goetz said students and faculty tend to hit a wall in the second semester.

"This time of year, we really have the student/teacher burnout, where it just seems like everybody's just dragging to get through," Goetz said. "So, I'm hoping that this kind of gets looked at as maybe a boost."

The district's plan isn't meant as just another day off - failing students still will need to come in on the fifth day for one-on-one work with teachers. Goetz said they also hope this might help with teacher recruitment, because it would give teachers more face time with struggling students.

So far, 11 public school districts have been approved for the schedule waiver. Those concerned about the overall approach cite the effect it will have on child-care needs for parents. State education officials said that's an issue districts will have to work through as they try the alternative schedule.

They also said other districts are using the fifth day as an opportunity for students who want or need extra help, so learning isn't affected the rest of the week. Goetz said when they did an initial experiment with the schedule last month, they found the extra day was useful.

"Our science fair kids came in and did their science fair projects on that Friday, instead of taking class time to do that," he said.

North Dakota has allowed districts to use the waiver for 20 years, but schools only started applying recently, when the law was modified to provide more flexibility in meeting instructional requirements.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND