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Battle Brews Over Bonneville Early Release Days

There may be a battle brewing in Bonneville County School District 93.

On Wednesday night, the school board approved next year’s calendar with a weekly early release, but there are some strong opinions over which day of the week that should be.

Administrators said there’s just something about calendars that stirs up emotions, and that was definitely the sentiment at Wednesday’s meeting.

The recommendation to the board is Mondays. That’s also what teachers want. But parents said Fridays are better for the kids.

Hours before the meeting, we asked parents and students at Rocky Mountain Middle School what they thought.

“It’s going to be tough on everybody a little bit, I think,” said parent Kristina Juarez.

Juarez is a single, working mom, so picking up her seventh-grade son from school 90 minutes earlier would be no easy task.

“If that happens, I’m going to have to juggle some more … spend more money on day care because I have a 6-year-old, also,” said Juarez.

The 2012-2013 proposed calendar for District 93 includes early releases on about 28 Mondays. Those 90 minutes will be for teachers to plan, collaborate and train on new technology.

“They have less time to plan and they’ve been given more things to plan for,” said Bruce Roberts, District 93 deputy superintendent. “The expectations are so much higher.”

Roberts said that’s because of changes like the Students Come First reforms, which include merit pay by a variety of groups, and aligning curriculum to the Common Core Standards.

Roberts said elementary teachers will adjust lessons on those days, and high school schedules will be shortened to fit all classes.

“If they’re meeting what they have to, it’s just fine,” said Jennifer Pietrok, who was picking up her younger sister.

“I’m not real happy about it,” said parent Michael Laybourn.

“I think it’s good they take that time to prepare, but the students, my children, are losing valuable learning time,” said Juarez. “That’s all there is to it.”

The students don’t really see it that way. To them, it would ease that weekly case of the Mondays.

“I like it,” said Jessica Webster, a sophomore at Bonneville High School.

“I’d totally be good with that,” said Carson Laybourn, a seventh-grader at Rocky Mountain Middle School.

District 93 has had early release in the past, but just once a month. Administrators and school board members agreed that no one wants to have early release days, but they’re necessary with the changing landscape of education in Idaho.

Superintendent Chuck Shackett said one concern with having early release on Fridays is that absences will go up, which would impact funding from the state.

Wednesday’s decision came in at a 3-2 vote by the school board. It will choose a specific early release day at the next board meeting.

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