American-Tribune (copy)

A committee made recommendations for exemptions for school districts that follow a 4-day week.

When the November meeting was held, it came up with tentative guidelines that appear so difficult even top performing 5-day a week districts would not qualify.

The 70-person committee was made up of 10 educators and 60 business people and others outside the classroom environment. Their findings would help draft Senate Bill 441.

There are currently about 100 school districts that follow the shorter week.

As it stands now, only one 4-day school district and eight K-through-8th grade districts could meet the recommended standards.

Top 5-day districts like Deer Creek, Edmond, Norman, Moore, Jenks and Bixby would not qualify under the new requirements.

This was not the news 4-day school districts wanted to hear.

Noble School Board Member, Erika Wright, has been following the state’s action on SB441 and reports back to 4-day districts that include Wagoner and Catoosa.

“Representative Rhonda Baker (R-Yukon) and Superintendent Joy Hoffmeister continually attempt to placate the efforts to fight SB441 by promising that the rules would not reflect a goal of eliminating the option of a 4-day week,” Wright said in a recent email.

“They stated numerous times that they would create rules that would establish a “reasonable pathway” to exemption. Upon the release of the new proposed rules in November, I dug into the actual numbers to determine who would pass and who would not. The results are dismal to say the least.”

Wright showed that Davenport in central Oklahoma was the only K-12 school that could meet the new rules. K-8 schools Harmony, Cottonwood, Gypsy, Ryal, Avant, Oak Grove, Albion and Nashoba were the others that qualified.

“Ninety-three percent of 4-day districts will fail any attempt to apply for a waiver,” Wright added.

What does this mean for Wagoner Public Schools?

According to Superintendent Randy Harris, WPS will continue the 4-day schedule through the end of the 2019-20 school year and through 2020-21 school schedule, too. After that, it was not known what the state would require.

Harris said the 4-day schedule for Wagoner has been a good recruiting tool to get teachers here.

“If we left the 4-day week, how many teachers would retire?” Harris said. “If we replace 30 teachers during a shortage of teachers and no financial advantage, then how do we win the best and the brightest?”

Of the new rules, Wright talked about, Harris added his opinion, and “I don’t know what narrative they are trying to sell (to the public).”

Harris added that Sen. Kim David and Rep. Kevin McDugle have been supportive of the 4-day concept for schools and appreciated their help.

Wright, Harris and others hope SB441 can be reworked to make a successful 4-day school exemption plan possible for those districts that want to continue it.