CHEYENNE – Laramie County School District 1’s students and staff got an unexpected week off from school during last month’s historic blizzard. But there’s a price to pay for that extra free time.
Beginning next Monday, those who attend one of the district’s four high schools will be making up for it until the end of this school year, which concludes June 3.
“We assumed we’d been employing one, maybe two snow days. As it turned out, it was five,” Tracey Kinney, assistant superintendent of instruction for the district, told the LCSD1 Board of Trustees Monday evening before unveiling the district’s plan to make up for lost instruction.
Elementary schools are required to extend 900 instructional hours throughout the 175-day school year, and junior high schools are required to extend 1,050 instructional hours. During normal years, contact is calculated through days, not hours, but the special circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic’s affect on instruction has allowed district to tally contact hours this year.
Despite the snow days, all of the elementary and junior high schools in the district are on track to meet those requirements. However, high schools are required to extend a total of 1,100 instructional hours, which the district said it will not be able to meet without finding a way to add more class time.
The district considered several options for making up the snow days, including extending the scheduled school year by five days or offering remote learning on Saturdays. But both of those options would create scheduling conflicts for seniors looking forward to graduation – set for the last full week in May – and for many high schoolers who participate in extracurricular activities. The other option was tacking on additional instructional time to already scheduled school days, which is the plan the district expects to put into action starting next week.
So, right before spring break, the school district surveyed its stakeholders and received almost 8,500 responses. The majority of parents, guardians, students and staff indicated their preference was to add time to the existing school days.
“What that will look like is adding 15 minutes onto the morning and not having any longer than a 30-minute lunch hour,” Kinney said.
“How much time are students losing during their lunch time? I know those are precious minutes,” Trustee Tim Bolin said.
Average high school lunch times run anywhere from 38 to 43 minutes. The revised schedule will compress that to no more than 30 minutes.
“We just didn’t have any other way to compress the day without going really, really early in the morning,” Kinney said.
Trustee Christy Klaassen asked how the district would accommodate students who might want additional help after school.
“For those one-on-one sessions, we’ll have to make some adjustments,” Kinney said. “We’ll try to still afford some of those opportunities – some of them may have to be extended remotely.”
Dave Bartlett, assistant superintendent of support operations, said if there is a demand from students wishing to stay after school “I know I could run a late bus from each of the secondary schools. I can’t run every route, but I think we do have enough drivers to where we can swing back around at the end of the day, so we will try to accommodate that, as well.”