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Weber School District considering whether to continue with shortened school day

By Emily Anderson standard-Examiner - | May 27, 2021

WASHINGTON TERRACE — To help teachers who took on more responsibilities during the pandemic, Weber School District trimmed 45 minutes off the school day this year so educators could use that time to catch up. The district is considering keeping that schedule around for next year.

In a typical school year, public schools are required by Utah law to provide at least 990 hours of instruction over a minimum of 180 school days each academic year. The Utah State Board of Education voted to relax the 990-hour rule for last school year, allowing school districts to shorten schedules and meet just the 180-day requirement if they requested an exception.

Approximately 22 out of Utah’s 41 school districts, including Weber School District, were granted a waiver by USBE at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, Deputy Superintendent Angie Stallings told the Standard-Examiner in December. At least one school district asked for an exception partway through the year.

The Weber School District Board of Education voted to end each school day 45 minutes early, allowing teachers to use the extra time to assist students who were working online because they had been quarantined due to contracting or being exposed to COVID-19.

As state school board members in March faced uncertainty about how the pandemic would affect schools next school year, it amended policy to strike the 990-hour rule altogether for 2021-22. That urged the district to rethink whether it will do away with its newly adopted schedule.

“With that in mind, the Weber Board of Education is seeking feedback from teachers, employees and parents regarding the possibility of continuing to effectively utilize the 45 minutes each day to: 1) seamlessly integrate a blended learning component into each teacher’s curriculum in ways that would enhance and enrich the teaching and learning experience for every student; and 2) to allow teachers to more effectively personalize and customize instruction for every student,” read a survey sent to parents and employees of the district earlier this year.

The survey asked whether respondents supported reducing the school day by 45 minutes, and whether they were in favor of that time coming off the beginning of the school day instead of the end. For high school students, that would mean an 8:30 a.m. start, and for elementary students, school would begin at 9:15 a.m.

Prior to the question about the school day starting later, the survey included a paragraph explaining why it might seek to implement such a change.

“A growing body of research indicates that children perform more effectively when they get more sleep in the morning,” it read. “Beginning school later in the morning has been studied by various district task forces in the past. The consistent complication identified has always been extending the school day later in the afternoon, thus impacting extracurricular activities and causing elementary children to arrive home late.”

It went on to say that the flexibility allowed next year by the state school board would eliminate previous concerns.

The survey closed last week, and according to district spokesperson Lane Findlay, more than 8,000 parents, teachers and employees responded. The results of that survey will be presented at a June 9 meeting, when the school board will likely make a decision on next year’s schedule.

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