PIUTE COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – The Piute School District, which consists of two elementary schools and a high school, is set to begin a four-day school week schedule beginning next year. The move to the four-day schedule was unanimously approved by the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) during a meeting held on April 6.

Per the request, the school year would still hold at least 990 instructional hours by extending in-class time on the four days of school. The new schedule is set to go into effect during the 2023-24 school year and would end after the 2026-27 school year unless extended through a reapplication process.

The request to allow Piute School District to move to a four-day schedule was made by Superintendent Koby Willis, who said Piute High School was on a four-day school week through much of the ’80s and the ’90s. In his request, Willis highlighted the rural challenges of the county, which he wrote has no supermarkets, fast food restaurants, hospitals, or shopping centers.

One such challenge highlighted by Willis is the amount of time spent commuting for athletics events or just on a bus ride to school. According to Willis, a Friday athletic event takes large numbers of students out of school for the entire day. He also said the bus ride from Koosharem to Piute High School is one of the longest bus rides in Utah. By moving to a four-day school week, there would be 50 fewer hours of students commuting by bus per year.

Ultimately, Willis said the extra day off from school will give students more opportunities to be active in their community and with their families.

“Whole child development is a major priority in the mission of Piute County School District,” Willis said in his request. “The school district absolutely believes that the time a student spends with grandparents in neighboring counties, doing chores around the house, working with family on a cattle drive, or participating in their community are essential parts of their development.”

During the meeting, Willis shared a story about taking his seven-year-old son to turkey farms about a mile from his home. While there, they unloaded thousands of baby turkeys. When they finished the owner of the farm gave his son $1 and warned his son not to let school get in the way of his education.

“Obviously as a professional educator, we don’t love that statement, but there was a lot of truth in it that my son learned so much from that and talked about it constantly for a while,” said Willis. “There are just so many great educational experiences we can’t provide in the school building and this gives us more opportunities as parents and even as educators with having that day.”

USBE Board Member Christina Boggess praised Willis for his request during the meeting. Boggess emphasized moving to a four-day school week could help students by providing a “niche and unique” environment that’s unique to the community itself.