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Billings County School Board approves four-day school week

After hearing from the community and reviewing survey results, the Billings County School Board approved a motion to change the county's schools to a four-day school week. The final decision must be determined by the state.

Of the eight people who opted to speak during the meeting, all of them were in favor of the change. Among them were parents Kellie and Justin Hasty.

Kellie Hasty addressed concerns that she heard expressed at the community meeting in Medora last week, one of which was the 30 minutes added to the school day.

"I just can't imagine that that short of a time would be detrimental to our kids or their ability to learn what they're trying to teach them during that day," she said. "It just seemed to me that the pros that were listed last week by far outweigh the cons."

Justin stressed people's ability to adapt, telling the Board about the changes his family adapted to after moving from Mississippi.

"There's a lot of change when you move. We've got four kids," he said. "They love it here. ... People will adapt. Kids will adapt. You've just got to give it time. I don't think you can 'what if' stuff. 'What if this?' and 'What if that?' You've got to try it."

He talked about families he knows whose children already go to schools with four-day school weeks.

"I've asked and you can't find a negative thing to say out of those families, why they would go back to a five day week. They love it," he said. "The one in Kansas that I know, I've been hunting at that ranch for 12 years, and they've got three kids — two girls and a boy. They're at straight four days; they don't offer a Friday. All of those kids went on academic scholarship to college. I don't think it would affect the grades of the kids."

Naomi Rossow's granddaughter will attend school in Billings County. Rossow's son had gone to a school that changed to a four-day school week and her family took part in the process. She talked about the benefits she noticed.

"You think kids do so well on a five day week with the time that's allowed," Rossow said. "Sometimes we're missing some of those kids that have special needs. They really benefited from that extra time that was set aside just for them in tutoring. ... The morale of the school changed."

She said she heard some of the same concerns at the Billings County community meetings, and that their community just adapted.

"If the day is longer, we need the kids to go to bed earlier," she said. "If you need daycare, you figure it out."

The school board also reviewed surveys from parents and teachers. Out of the 86 parents of current students in the county who responded to the survey, 76.7 percent were in favor of the four-day school week as proposed. Out of the 88 parents of incoming students in the county who responded to the survey, 78.4 percent were in favor.

The rate was highest among the teachers — 82.1 percent.

Lynn Arthaud, a former school board member, talked about the other times the Board considered the four-day school week, which was first proposed in 2015.

"We didn't have the data," she said. "We didn't feel comfortable making the decision. We wanted public input. We wanted to hear from people. We wanted the teachers to put their input in — all of them as a group. We gave them a year, and they did it."

When put to a vote, two Board members expressed their need to further weigh the decision, but the motion passed with a majority in favor. The district must submit paperwork to the state for consideration by March.

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