CHEYENNE – Lawmakers are considering a proposal that could encourage some Wyoming schools to go to year-round class schedules.
The state House’s Appropriations Committee voted 5-2 on Thursday to send House Bill 255 to the floor for debate.
The legislation creates a voluntary pilot program for schools that are interested in offering year-round schedules. It would give interested schools a financial assistance award of 5 percent of their total school-level resources to fund the program.
HB255 provides $3 million for up to six schools to take part in the program.
Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, co-sponsor of the bill, said it would not require schools to increase their number of school days. Instead, those in the program could not have vacation breaks longer than three weeks.
Harshman said the goal is to see if getting rid of long summer vacations would improve student performance.
“That is really the issue with that ‘summer loss,’” he said. “There is also a social loss in having to get people back into the swing of things [in the fall] ”
The bill calls for schools to apply to be part of the program by July 31. It would limit districts to having one school in the program.
Harshman said he expects school boards to host public meetings and work with members of the public to see if they think the plan is appropriate for one of their schools.
“This is the type of thing that could change the landscape for a school district,” he said.
Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, also a sponsor, added it could show the rest of the state if this model is beneficial.
“What we really want to do is have a couple test schools, see if it works and see if the testing scores improve or if there is any difference,” he said. “This is just trying to be creative to incentive some schools that want to do this.
“Obviously, we are not trying to enforce this on anyone. The concept is: What can we do more to improve test scores and the quality of education we have?”
Reps. Glenn Moniz, R-Laramie, and Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, voted against the proposal.
Moniz said going to a year-round schedule would be detrimental to kids in agricultural communities.
“Summer break for all kids is not equal,” he said. “Most of the ag kids that I am aware of carry on projects during the summer. This would inhibit their ability to do that.”
Nicholas responded that schools in those communities likely would not be interested in the program, so it would not affect them.