Karen Blaney sophomore English class

Johnson County School District Superintendent Jim Wagner said that working groups are forming at each school to discuss options for students for Friday afternoons next year.

The community will have a clearer picture of what a four-and-a-half-day school week could look like in coming months.

According to Johnson County School District Superintendent Jim Wagner, working groups consisting of teachers, staff and parents from each of Buffalo’s four schools are currently being formed. The district is eyeing a December start date for the groups’ first meeting, Wagner said.

“The groups will start by meeting on a building level, and they will be talking about everything from what scheduling could look like on that half day to what kinds of extracurricular activities and clubs we can provide for students who are not traveling for activities on those Friday afternoons,” Wagner said. “We will also have discussions about transportation and how that could work for each of the schools.”

After initial school-level discussions in December, the four groups will come together in January to discuss their plans and coordinate schedules with the other schools.

“We realize that there are a lot of moving pieces in a district the size of ours, and a change at one school can have an unexpected effect on another school,” Wagner said. “It really can be a domino effect. So that’s what we are hoping to avoid by coming together.”

Wagner said the groups will work through the winter and early spring to solidify the plan for the 2020-21 school year, which will be the district’s first with a four-and-a-half-day week.

The Johnson County School Board adopted the new schedule – which includes schools dismissing at 1 p.m. on Fridays – on a 7-1 vote in October. The move came nearly 10 months after Wagner first solicited community input on whether the schools should adopt an alternative calendar. The decision followed months of discussion, a number of community meetings and work by a calendar committee composed of school representatives, board representatives and community members.

The changes, according to Wagner, were driven by a desire to ensure that all students had the most time possible with teachers in the classroom. Many students – especially high schoolers – are absent on Fridays due to commitments related to student activities, according to Wagner. 

“When I got here, the first thing I heard about from staff, parents and community members was that Fridays were a wasted day at the high school,” Wagner said at a school board meeting in October. “Just a free for all. The question to ask, if that is the case, is what are you doing to make it more meaningful? Or continue to do what we’re currently doing, which is nothing. We talked about what’s going to be best for kids. And what kind of calendar is it going to look like in order to make things happen that can be more meaningful for the kids.”

Wagner said a date had not yet been set for the working groups’ first meetings. Parents from each of the Buffalo schools are encouraged to be part of the groups, he said. For more information on the groups and how you can get involved, contact the school district office at 684-9571 or contact the principals at your children’s schools.

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