The Imbler School Board voted 4-1 Wednesday, Feb. 15, to have its district switch from the current week of 4-1/2 days to a four-day week in 2023-24. Board members Ken Patterson, Joe Fisher, Kaiger Braseth and Jason Beck voted for the switch, and Pam Glenn voted against it. The motion approved by the school board calls for the move to be a two-year pilot project.
IMBLER — Imbler will soon join the group of public school districts in Northeastern Oregon that have four days of school a week.
The Imbler School Board voted 4-1 Wednesday, Feb. 15, to have its district switch from the current week of four and a half days to a four-day week in 2023-24. Board members Ken Patterson, Joe Fisher, Kaiger Braseth and Jason Beck voted for the switch, and Pam Glenn voted against it. The motion approved by the school board calls for the move to be a two-year pilot project.
“We want to make it clear that this is a trial run. If it is not going well, we will always be able to switch back,” Patterson said.
There is reason to be cautious because studies indicate there is often a dip in reading and math scores among students in school districts that switch to a four-day week, Patterson said. He noted though that the decline is often more pronounced in larger school districts than in smaller rural ones.
Patterson said the school district will be monitoring the math and reading test scores of students to make sure there is not anything more than a minimal decline.
To protect against this possibility the school district will provide an opportunity for students to come to school on selected Fridays to receive extra help from teachers, according to the motion passed by the school board.
“We want to give them the opportunity to catch up,” Patterson said.
He said the enhancement sessions may give students more opportunities to meet with their teachers individually than they now have.
Braseth also spoke in support of the enhancement sessions.
“We want to make sure that something is in place to meet the needs of those who need to get caught up,” Braseth said.
Patterson noted that the Friday sessions also will give students time to work on things like FFA and Future Business Leaders of American projects. Many of Imbler High School students are members of their school district’s FFA and FBLA chapters.
An Imbler School District committee will develop a calendar for eight to 12 Friday enhancement sessions throughout the school year. The calendar for those days would then be presented to the school board for approval.
Board member Joe Fisher, said it will be important to make sure students take advantage of the Friday sessions.
Jason Beck, also a school board member, said he voted in favor of the four-day week because he was impressed with the support it received in a survey of teachers and staff.
“They are the experts,” he said. “If they support it, I know it must be a good move.”
He said he also took note of the community’s support of the change. He said their support means a lot because he has enormous respect for how committed people in the Imbler community are to education.
Imbler has had a five-day school week until the late 1980s. It is the only school district in Union and Wallowa counties that has school four and a half days a week. All 10 of the school district’s in the two counties have four-day weeks except La Grande, which has school five days a week.
The La Grande School Board considered switching to a four-day week in 2023-24 but its board decided against it in January, via a vote by consensus at a work session. One reason for the decision not to switch was a concern about the impact the move could have on reading and scores on tests.
Oregon has the fourth-highest number of schools on a four-day week in the country, according to a 2022 article on the Oregon State University website, www.oregonstate.edu.
The article indicated that 137 schools across 80 school districts had opted for the shorter school week. The majority of these schools are in rural areas, the report stated.
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