Elementary school students will stay with the four-day weeks they are used to.
At Wednesday’s monthly meeting the Teton County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees declined the option to discuss changes to the elementary school schedule. Chair Keith Gingery raised the potential for the conversation because the item was included in the agenda, but no trustees bit on the opportunity.
At a special meeting Feb. 18, the board opted to send middle and high school students to in-person classes four days a week, eliminating the A/B hybrid schedule that had been in place since September. It had also been slated to discuss potential changes to the elementary school schedule then, but Trustee Alan Brumstead suggested the board separate the elementary and secondary school discussions. When it arose Wednesday, no one seemed interested in even broaching the topic.
“We’ve had the discussion so people will know we are going to leave elementary alone for the rest of the year,” Gingery said during the meeting.
Some parents want the district to return to five days a week for all students. But elementary school teachers and principals have told the board that the Fridays are crucial for planning, since teachers spend far more time with their classes than in previous years because of altered schedules due to the coronavirus.
At the middle and high school level, some students would like the board to reverse its decision and maintain the A/B schedule for the remainder of the school year.
In public comment, Jackson Hole High School juniors Jesiah Coates and Beckett Lucas-Griffin presented the findings of their survey of high school students, which found the majority opposed the switch to a four-day week.
Of the 364 students who responded, 234 (64.3%) said they would feel unsafe in the four-day plan, and 154 (42.4%) said their education would be negatively impacted. Of the respondents, 77 (21.1%) said they would feel safe under the new schedule, and 84 (23.1%) said their education would improve.
Trustees don’t usually respond to public comment, and the juniors’ presentation passed with little board input. The students told the Daily prior to the meeting that they hoped their findings would convince the board to reconsider, but no further discussion transpired.
Trustee Kate Mead applauded the students for their work, as did Trustee Jennifer Zung.
“I just want to thank Jesiah and Beckett for doing a student survey,” Mead said. “I really think that takes a lot of resilience; it takes a lot of effort to get out there, and to go ahead and do a survey like that. I’m sad that there wasn’t more comment by our board on it.”
The only other change noted in the meeting related to the schedule adjustment is that the district hopes to implement a student surveillance testing program, which could help curb transmission as students’ bubbles expand with more kids in the buildings. Superintendent Gillian Chapman told the board that her staff hoped to randomly test 20% of the student body weekly between spring break and the rest of the year.
Each student will likely be chosen twice during that time period, should their parents allow them to participate in the program.
“That way we can circulate throughout the student body to make sure that we’re actually getting cases as early as possible,” she said.