Belfield Public School is considering changing its five-day school week schedule to a four-day schedule next school year.

The district is still in the early stages of the process.

"The first step we're going to do is to send out surveys to our patrons or parents of our students to check to see if there's sufficient interest to pursue a four-day school week," said Superintendent Daren Kurle.

The district's administration and school board have been considering the idea since it went to a hybrid plan for the COVID-19 pandemic, in which students are physically in school Monday through Thursday and in school virtually from home on Friday.

Kurle sent a brief survey to teachers asking for their thoughts on the current schedule, and the feedback has been mostly positive.

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"The biggest thing I've heard is you can ... prep for next week so much that you're ready to go for the next week. You're somewhat refreshed ... If they need to work individually with students, which I've seen quite a bit, they've got students that come in that need extra help," he said.

If the school were to move to a true four-day school week, students would not be in class on Fridays, virtually or otherwise, which could be beneficial to both teachers and students.

"That fifth day, our staff is here, our teachers are here; they can work on collaboration with each other — PLC (professional learning community) stuff. Professional development opportunities can be given on those Fridays. Staff meetings can happen on those Fridays," he said.

"We can use that time for students to come in that maybe need remediation or even the potential of enrichment programs such as gifted and talented," Kurle said. "If we wanted to do more in terms of STEM projects ... Let's say you want to do a robotics team and you want to have an opportunity for them to come in for practice — It frees up that day to offer those opportunities that you maybe wouldn't be able to have during the normal five-day week."

Some school districts that moved to a four-day school week have faced initial push-back from working parents who worried about finding childcare for their child during the off-day. For Belfield, Kurle said it hasn't been an issue so far.

"I would assume that would be an issue right now for parents, and I haven't heard anything negative about that ... I guess if they're worried about daycare," he said.

In the past, schools that have moved to a four-day week have also had to consider lengthening the school days to meet the required amount of time students are in school.

Kurle said he's compared the schedule to the required amount of time the state says students must be in school, and based on what he's seen so far, the district wouldn't have to lengthen the school day to meet the requirement.

To move to a four-day school week, the school must submit an application by March 1, 2021, and the change must be approved by the state.

If the change is approved, Belfield will be added to the growing list of schools in the midwest that have already done so, including Billings County Schools, which adopted the change in 2019.