By Conrad Dudderar
The Oklahoma Board of Education has approved Yukon Public Schools’ application to allow a four-day school week for at-risk students to continue for the next three school years.
The state board, at its May 25 monthly meeting, approved deregulation requests to allow an “abbreviated school day” for alternative education programs in the Yukon, Stigler and Whitesboro school districts. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters recommended approval.
The Yukon Alternative Learning Experience (YALE) has operated under a four-day program for the last 13 years with “amazing success,” YPS Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth said.
Simeroth, in a letter to the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Accreditation Division, explained that Friday is a mandatory make-up day for Yukon’s alternative school.
This has “provided an essential tool for students to maintain our attendance requirements,” the YPS chief added.
Pending the state Department of Education’s support, Yukon school district officials plan to continue YALE’s condensed schedule indefinitely.
The YPS Board of Education, at its April 10 meeting, approved requesting a waiver for the four-day alternative school week for the 2023-24, 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years.
The school site statutory waiver and deregulation application was signed by YPS Board President Suzanne Cannon, YALE Principal Jody Pendleton and Dr. Simeroth.
The instructional day for the Yukon alternative school will be four hours and 25 minutes, four days per week.
There are 66 student slots available in the YALE program.
Three class schedules are offered to students on Mondays through Thursdays during the school year – 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., 11 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. and noon to 4:15 p.m.
The make-up day is 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Fridays.
YALE teachers are contracted for 157 days per year.
‘STUDENTS PERFORM MUCH BETTER’
In the waiver application, Principal Pendleton pointed out the benefits of the four-day school week:
“At-risk students perform much better on a reduced schedule that consists of focusing on academic goals and allowing them to move at an accelerated pace. When I eliminated the attendance discipline measures, my students have shown great progress, and our graduation rate has stayed consistently between 95-95%.”
Pendleton also referred to financial benefits for the school district – full-time aide salaries reduced by 70 hours and utility expenses and special bus services reduced by 35 days.
Oklahoma’s Department of Education defines alternative education as an “educational process incorporating appropriate structure, curriculum, interaction, and reinforcement strategies to stimulate learning with students who have not utilized their capacity to do so within traditional education settings.”