Nyssa board approves four-day school schedule

NYSSA—After months of deliberation and community discussion, the Nyssa School Board approved a four-day school schedule. 

The board met in a minute-and-a-half-long special meeting on Monday, May 22, and voted 4-1 to approve a four-day schedule giving students and teachers Fridays off except when a holiday falls the following Monday or when teachers have in-service days, according to Susan Ramos, board chair. 

Ramos said the new schedule extends the school day by just under 30 minutes until 3:30 p.m. but does not prolong the school year. Under the newly-approved schedule, the school year would end on May 30. 

The board faced backlash after voting 4-3 during its April 10 meeting to expand the school year into June but not extend the school day. 

The board members subsequently entertained the schedule that extended the school day but expressed concern about how some younger students would respond to the longer days. 

Ramos said Monday, May 15, there is a minimum amount of hours that students need to be in class and that the district would need to make up the time somewhere if the district moved to a four-day school schedule.  

At issue, the board said, was to either extend the school day or the school year. 

Jenae Heninger, a kindergarten teacher, told the board during a Monday, May 15, work session that kids would benefit from having more time with teachers.  

Chris Mendes, a dual language teacher, said having additional time with students allows them to absorb the curriculum much better. 

Mendes added that as a summer school teacher, extending the regular school year into June would cut into the time he spends with his family before the summer term. 

“I like to get my family a break as well,” Mendes said. “So if I have to go into June, then summer school will probably not be an option for me as a teacher.” 

Darren Johnson, Nyssa superintendent, said in a Monday, June 5 email that with the new schedule, students would be in each class for 49 minutes, up from 46.

“It seems like it’s not a lot but it adds up really fast,” said board member Megan Robbins.

Asked during the work session if she favored the proposed calendar extending the school days, Robbins said, “consistency is key.” 

Board member Don Ballou concurred. 

“Whether it’s a five-day calendar week or a four-day calendar week, it doesn’t matter to me,” Ballou said. “As long as it’s consistent to what’s going on.” 

Board member Jeremy Peterson said the board should have considered a calendar that allowed students and staff to come in for half days on Fridays. On those partial Fridays, students can come in for additional tutoring and teachers can work on lesson plans or professional development activities. 

Under one of the calendars considered, Peterson said, the district would have had one partial Friday per month. 

However, a teacher in the audience said such a schedule would impede student and teacher consistency. With extended school days, the teacher said, teachers would have more time to work on building emotional and behavioral skills.

Peterson said his daughter benefitted from the extra time with a teacher, even if it was a few minutes at a time. 

“There’s those little moments of time that these students need,” Peterson said, “even if it’s running in and out of class to talk to a teacher.” 

Peterson was the lone dissenting vote on the new schedule.

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