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WUSD Governing Board votes to reduce seat time

On April 26, the board made a unanimous decision to shorten the school day for district schools by 30 minutes. (Stock photo)

On April 26, the board made a unanimous decision to shorten the school day for district schools by 30 minutes. (Stock photo)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — Shortening the school day was the topic of discussion at a recent Williams Unified School District Governing Board meeting.

On April 26, the board made a unanimous decision to shorten the school day for district schools by 30 minutes. The change, which will be implemented in the upcoming academic year, aims to address concerns with student performance and planning time for teachers.

“We were looking at burnout, fatigue, resiliency and other concerns and started researching and collecting data at the state and national level,” said WUSD Superintendent Eric Evans. “Another concern we looked into was the time teachers had to collaborate with one another.”

The decision was made after soliciting feedback from both the staff and the community. Although exact figures were not provided, Evans said nearly 80 percent of the community members sampled were in favor of the shortened school day. This widespread support, coupled with positive reception among staff members, prompted the board to move forward with the change

One of the primary reasons for shortening the school day was to provide teachers with additional time for various professional responsibilities, Evans said. With the new schedule, an intentional hour will be allocated at the end of the professional workday for lesson planning, grade input, staff meetings, and professional learning community sessions.

“(The teachers need time) to make parents phone calls, enter grades into the gradebook, grade papers, lesson plan, reflect on their professional practice and more,” Evans said.

The revised schedule also aims to benefit students participating in extracurricular activities. Often, these activities extend late into the evening, leaving students with limited time for rest and homework. By ending school earlier, it is hoped that students will have the opportunity to get a healthier amount of sleep, in line with the recommended 8 to 10 hours for developing minds and brains.

“On the athletic and extracurricular side more so at the high school, we are hopefully going to be getting everybody home about a half hour sooner than usual,” Evans said. “When you have so many teams sharing so few facilities, a lot of times these practices are still going on at 8:30, quarter to nine at night. I think we can do better, and we have to do better for our kids.”

To address concerns about meeting the required instructional hours, the school district ran calculations and found that even with the shortened day, they would exceed the minimum mandated hours. For grades four through eight, the requirement is 890 hours per year, while for grades nine through twelve, it is 720 hours. By offering over 1,000 hours per year, the district remains well above the necessary thresholds.

The school district also consulted neighboring districts, such as Grand Canyon and Flagstaff, to ensure that their instructional hours remained comparable. The adjustments made to the school day strike a balance between maintaining sufficient hours and addressing concerns of teacher well-being and student sleep patterns.

Looking ahead, the district aims to proactively tackle potential disruptions caused by severe weather conditions. In the event of future snowstorms or other unforeseen circumstances, the district plans to implement remote online instruction, allowing them to continue with scheduled instructional days without needing to extend the academic year.

As the district prepares for the upcoming academic year, a motion and vote on the new snow day schedule will be presented to the school board for approval.

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