Iron County school board votes to switch to early-out Fridays

Iron County School District board members discuss late-start vs. early-out schedules, Cedar City, Utah, May 18, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Iron County School District schools will be switching to early-out Fridays for teacher collaboration time, effective this fall.

At its regular action meeting Tuesday night, the school board approved the change by a 4-1 vote. 

Board member Jeff Corry, who proposed the change, said he had not been a fan of the district’s late-start Wednesday calendar for secondary schools ever since it was first implemented in 2014 when he was still teaching at Cedar High School.

As previously reported in Cedar City News, Corry had made doing away with the late-start schedule part of his campaign when he ran for school board last year, saying that adjusting the calendar so that every school day begins at the same time would help reduce tardiness problems.

“As I’ve mentioned before, I used to poll the kids: ‘How many of you slept in today?’” Corry said Tuesday night, referring to a question he would ask his students on late-start Wednesdays. “Hands (went) flying up all over class.”

Corry said a recent district survey generated a total of 4,403 responses, which included 2,306 parents, 560 faculty and staff and 1,537 students. Of those, 2,794 respondents or 63.46% favored switching to early-out Fridays, Corry said, adding that just under one-third said they’d rather keep the schedule as is, with late-start Wednesdays for secondary schools and early-out Wednesdays for elementary schools. Approximately 5.75% favored early-out Wednesdays for all schools.

“As I’ve stated before, Flex and XLTs are not being touched,” Corry said, referring to the built-in time for remediation and study.

According to the newly approved schedule, secondary school students will be released at approximately 12:30 p.m. and elementary students will be let out at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Friday of each week.

File photo of sign in front of Iron County School District offices, Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 20, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Although Corry cited more specific release times in his initial motion, board member Michelle Lambert suggested they amend the motion so as not to specify exact times in order for lunch times, bus schedules and other logistical issues to be worked out. 

Individual schools need to be allowed some flexibility to make scheduling adjustments as needed, she said, with other board members agreeing.

The board then passed the amended motion 4-1, with Ben Johnson casting the dissenting vote. He indicated previous to the vote that he’d rather wait another year before making a change, since next year’s school schedules had already been set. He said he would prefer to “take a breath, get this right (and) go through the process.” 

“I am extremely concerned with the impact that this will have on our counselors, our principals and our teachers,” he said, noting that there were only six school days remaining in what has been a challenging year.

“I hate to see us, regardless of which way we go, make a movement too fast that it puts an undue burden on our already overloaded (staff),” Johnson added. “This has been a terrible, terrible year. I think our teachers are underpaid, I think our administrators are underpaid, and I think for us to simply say, ‘Just do it and take care of it’ is short-sighted.”

Lambert also commented, saying she’d personally seen the benefits of late-start Wednesdays as a parent.

“Looking at how effective late-start Wednesday has been, I have seen my children’s education improve,” she said.

Nevertheless, she added, “I understand why parents want early-out Fridays, and I get that as a parent.”

“I hate the thought of doing something that’s going to make life harder for our teachers,” she said. “It’s been such a hard year, and they already do so much without enough resources and without enough time. The thought of taking away one of those valuable resources or diminishing it, that hurts my heart, but I feel like as long as that contract time is preserved for collaboration, we’re going to be okay.”

Before the board’s vote, Roy Mathews, the district’s director of secondary education, said that although the change would impact and possibly undo some of the scheduling work already done by administrators and counselors, he expressed confidence they could implement it.

“They will get it done. They’re amazing people,” he said.

Earlier, Mathews had noted that if early-out Friday class periods stayed the same length as those of the late-start Wednesdays in the current schedule, secondary students would be starting their lunch at 12:17 p.m., only to be excused to go home just 13 minutes later at 12:30.

“That’s one of the logistical issues that we’ll continue to work on and work through,” he said.

Superintendent Shannon Dulaney expressed her appreciation to the board for keeping intact the teacher collaboration time, even if it is being moved to a different day of the week.

“That is what’s critical,” she said, “and that’s what’s going to continue to keep Iron County School District on top and moving forward.”

In other business Tuesday night, the Iron County School District board took the following actions:

  • Voted down a suggestion by board member Dave Staheli that would have prohibited COVID-19 vaccinations from being administered on school property. The motion failed by a 3-2 vote.
  • Approved a $136,000 bid contract for new bleachers for Parowan High School’s gymnasium. Also, Parowan’s baseball team was recognized for taking second place at the recent state 2A tournament.
  • Recognized several retiring employees, including a few with more than 30 years of service.
  • Heard from Hunter Shaheen, the district’s building consultant and energy specialist, regarding several projected construction and capital improvement projects that could potentially be included in a future bond election. One item that wouldn’t necessarily require bond money to fund was to have upgraded security doors installed at schools, at a total estimated cost of $864,000, Shaheen said.

Next month’s regularly scheduled board meetings are the work session on June 15 and the regular meeting on June 22.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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