2:44 p.m., April 8, 2013

Wyoming schools escape year round schedule

Despite early interests from several school principals in Laramie County School District No. 1, students in Wyoming will continue to attend classes for a period of nine months after the pilot year-round school bill HB 255 lost steam in a Senate committee shortly after passing the House during the recent Wyoming legislative session.

If the bill had passed, some schools in Wyoming would have moved to a year-round schedule for the 2013 school year. It was a similar bill to one presented about 10 years ago, which also passed the House before falling apart in the Senate.

Unlike a lot of the bills this year, the HB 255 bill was considered as a whole instead of sections. The debate was not about whether the sample sizes should be larger or if the program would be too expensive, but if year-round programs in Wyoming, in general, would work.

Legislature on fence about year-round school

For some representatives, the idea of giving up summers was out of the question, but for others, the loss of educational time in the summer was too significant to ignore. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Laramie, said studies have shown students lose a month or more of education during the summer break that they must re-learn.

Rep. Glenn Moniz, R-Albany, said he liked the idea that the pilot program would have been voluntary, and for that reason he did not have too many issues with the bill. In the end though, he said the idea of having students in classes during the summer was too much to handle and decided to vote against the bill.

Moniz said, “Most of the people in the agricultural industries with kids in 4H or FFA have projects they work on, and they work on them year-round, but in the summer they travel a lot with their livestock, showing them all over.”

Laramie County School District No. 1’s superintendent, Dr. Mark Stock, agreed that summer in Wyoming can be a memorable event with all the hiking, fishing and baseball games. But he disagreed that the agricultural programs should be a reason to stop the pilot.

In reality, he said most of the students in Wyoming have nothing to do with agricultural activities.

Summer loss forces students reeducation

More importantly though, Stock and Rep. Nicholas agreed that one of the reasons for the bill in the first place was substantial evidence showed summer loss of education among children in poverty-level homes for those who cannot do all the educational activities throughout the summers. Unfortunately, at this point in time, the numbers were not large enough, and the studies were not discussed well enough for anyone to take notice. Moniz said it was not too high of a priority on either side of the House and Senate in the recent legislative session.

Moving forward, Representatives Moniz and Nicholas and Superintendent Stock all believe a new bill will be presented in a future legislative session; however, each felt the better choice to an all-around-school-year pilot would be to increase the number of hours or days in the school year.

Stock said the standards and requirements continue to build for the teachers, and something will have to give sooner or later. He said, “At one point in Laramie No. 1 we had 180 school days, but we chopped off some of that and turned them into training days for teachers.”

He also said it would be very difficult and even almost impossible for the union of school districts to make changes, and at this point a pilot system of any sort is becoming a must. For now, much of the attention is going toward the seniors who are not taking a full load of classes. Stock said a fairly high number of them take two, three or four classes and find themselves not ready for the college environment.

Moniz believed the answer to making a stronger case for the bill would be an interim session before the next legislative session. Moniz said Colorado is one of three or four states receiving federal funds to run a pilot program similar to the one Wyoming was trying to set up, and although he has heard some are not too crazy about the program, he believed the information would be quite valid and worth collecting and discussing.

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HB 255