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Districts mull year-round school idea in legislation

Feb 10, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Some Wyoming students could start attending school on a year-round basis under a bill legislators are considering.

If House Bill 255 passes, funds would be appropriated to supplement financial assistance for school districts to operate on a year-round calendar.

The bill will now proceed to the Senate after the House of Representatives on Feb. 5 passed it on third reading by a close 33-27 vote.

Fremont County Reps. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete; Rita Campbell, R-Shoshoni; and Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander supported HB 255. Reps. Nathan Winters, R-Thermopolis, and David Miller, R-Riverton, voted against the legislation.

"I like the idea behind the bill, but the appropriation was a sticking point for me," Winters said.

The bill contains an appropriation of $3 million from the School Foundation Fund to the Wyoming Department of Education for up to six schools.

Aside from a few exceptions, the assistance would be limited to one school per district. Supplemental assistance awarded to each selected school would equal 5 percent of the total school level of resources to fund the program.

Participating schools would not be required to increase the number of days class is held, but not could not have vacation breaks longer than three weeks.

Fremont County School District 1 superintendent Mike Bowman said such a schedule, which he called a 45-15 plan because it follows a nine-weeks on three-weeks off schedule, could help with the lack of retention that occurs during the summer break.

"Given the fact that we are grade-level schools, if it were only one school, I don't see how that would be feasible," Bowman said about Lander. "A year-round calendar takes a huge community buy-in. It's a huge paradigm shift."

A benefit of going year-round is that families could take vacations in all seasons rather than just the summer.

"For high school kids who work in the summer, they might find it difficult to find a job if they only get three weeks off," Bowman countered.

Other considerations are sport competitions with districts that don't follow a year-round schedule.

"There are a lot of different year-round models out there," School District 6 superintendent Diana Clapp said. "Success would be community dependent."

Clapp acknowledged the concern with summer vacation and the loss of retention, but she also noted how a year-round schedule could impact agricultural communities such as the one she leads in Pavillion.

"It would also be complicated in Fremont County because of the number of school districts," Clapp added.

Fremont County has eight school districts and a Bureau of Indian Affairs School, which is the most in any one county in Wyoming. Clapp said having a district operate differently than the others could create some logistical issues.

Rep. Miller's nay vote also had to do with the money component.

"We have plenty of money in our education system already," Miller said. "Districts can do this already if they think it is necessary."

He said Wyoming needs students to perform better, not spend more. "We need to inspire the kids to achieve and they need to understand we are trying to teach them skills for the world economy in the 21st century," he added.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, agreed.

"I am for districts choosing to do year-round school," Case said. "I just don't think we need $3 million in incentives from the state."

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