The Johnson County School District is considering shortening the school day by 40 minutes for elementary students starting this August.

Last week, the district invited parents to a meeting to present the idea. We commend the district administrators because academics were the priority and the impetus for the proposed change. Academics should always be No. 1 when it comes to our students’ education.

Cloud Peak Elementary School Principal Craig Anderson said that by the end of the day, younger students are worn out and lessons aren’t as effective. Another reason for the proposed change is to allow more time for collaboration among teachers – both at grade level and across the two elementary schools.

Meadowlark Elementary School Principal Laurie Graves said collaboration would be especially important as the district implements a new language arts curriculum this fall.

There are certainly issues that need to be worked out before such a change is implemented – the bus schedule in particular. One option would be for all students in kindergarten through 12th grade to start school at the same time each day with elementary school children being released earlier in the day.

The school district could work closely with area organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Horns and the Johnson County Family YMCA to schedule specific buses to pick up younger students. Reaching out to these organizations will be key in making sure a new schedule is feasible.

While the bus schedule is a hurdle, it’s not insurmountable. The larger hurdle is whether the school district will be moving to a four-day week for the 2020-21 school year. If that happens, it would mean the shortened schedule for elementary students is in place only one year. Making such significant changes for one year would be hard on students, teachers, parents and organizations like the Boys & Girls Club that have to plan ahead.

The first step for the district should be deciding whether it will move forward with a four-day week. The next step should be adjusting the schedule for elementary students. Both decisions should be based on what’s best for the students’ education.

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