Four-day school week coming soon to WACO district

District is first in state to debut plan; students can opt for enrichment, mediation on Fridays

The WACO school district in Henry County is working toward implementing a four-day school week ahead of next year.  The plan calls for extended school days Monday through Thursday, and time for enrichment and remediation on Friday.

"We looked at research and found kindergartners through high school students can handle this additional time," said Tom Ferguson, chair of the School Calendar Committee.  "This is the right move for the district and the kids, who will benefit the most."

The plan, which has been approved by the state's Department of Education, will be closely watched by some of the top education officials in the state, including Gov. Terry Branstad.

"It's always exciting to have people from the state department of education, from the governors office looking at you," said elementary school principal Brandt Snakenberg.

"No other school in the history of Iowa has ever been given this opportunity.  We are the first to be offered a chance to improve and change our children’s educational structure, and based on research from other states, improved test scores will follow," Tim Graber, WACO school board president, wrote in a letter to parents last month.

The district is still in the process of working out some of the details of the plan, but their hope is to make advancements in personalizing education for each student, Ferguson said.  While attending school on Friday is optional, officials expect most students in the district will opt to participate.

"If you create opportunities for student of all different levels and interest to come and have an experience with an adult and with their friends that's meaningful, that's real world, then a lot of them will come," Ferguson said.

Friday activities will vary between grade levels. Elementary students will be offered various activities, from Lego engineering to reading assistance. High school-aged students will be directed toward career advancement activities and internship opportunities.  Additional activities include volunteering and community service.

"I'm really excited about it, I'm hoping he can get some college credit," said Cinda Blake, whose son is a sophomore.  "He can get a jump start on that, so I'm excited about it."The plan faces final approval by the school board in December.

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