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Wyoming’s alternate school-week schedules are not one-size-fits all

in Education/News
Wyoming classroom education
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

In a rural state, four-day school weeks can be both beneficial and challenging for parents and students alike.

Wyoming school districts have experimented with alternate schedules for the last decade and possibly longer, said Julie Magee, director of the Wyoming Department of Education’s Division of Accountability. 

In most cases, the alternate schedules are requested by school districts to benefit students active in after-school activities such as sports, Magee said, adding the schedules could reduce education costs in some cases. 

Not all Wyoming’s school districts, however, believe the benefit is worth the risk of negatively affecting underprivileged students, some of whom experience food insecurity when school is not in session. Richard Patterson, interim superintendent for Goshen County School District No. 1, said his school board recently voted against moving to a four-day school week.  

“They’ve been looking at this for about two years,” Patterson explained. “What drove it initially was to make sure teachers had more time in the classroom.”

Students in activities often missed class on Fridays as they traveled across the state to participate in events. Longer days Monday through Thursday could prevent those students from missing valuable class time.

When the suggestion was opened to public comment, however, residents and staff voiced several concerns, Patterson said.

“Child care was a big issue, there’s a shortage of childcare universally, but certainly, we deal with it in Torrington,” he explained. “The other concern I heard is with some of these kids, the home environment may not be as stable or as nurturing as we would like, so the school provides a place of structure and nutritious, balanced meals five days a week.”

While GCSD No. 1 does have slightly longer school days Monday through Thursday and a half-day on alternating Fridays, Magee said the Department of Education does not classify the schedule as alternate, because the department clocks half days the same as whole days.

Sixteen of Wyoming’s school districts currently have an alternate schedule in place, including Crook County School District No. 1, according to Department of Education documents.

With three communities and five schools in the district, CCSD No. 1 Superintendent Mark Broderson said the alternate schedule received overwhelming support from staff, parents and students.

“It’s one of those topics that comes up every year, and we’ve tried an alternate calendar in the past,” Broderson said. “There was a lot of days (during the five-day week schedule) we didn’t feel we were getting the most bang for our buck.”

The school district distributed a survey on which at least one question directly addressed a shorter week, he said. Staff, students and parents were polled, and nearly all the survey results were pro-change.

“The staff and faculty responses came back 115 yeses and 7 nos,” Broderson said. “The other surveys were pretty much the same.”

Before suggesting the schedule to the CCSD No. 1 Board of Trustees, the superintendent said he delved into research. 

“There’s only two schools in recent history who’ve gone to a four-day week, then back to a five,” Broderson said. “Neither one of them was based on academic reasons.”

The data he discovered did not provide evidence shorter weeks improved test scores consistently, he said, but attendance improved across the board.

“For some schools, there was a honeymoon period where test scores improved, but most of those leveled out after five years or so,” Broderson said.

Additionally, the school district sent faculty to nearby school districts with alternate schedules to study how best to implement the change. The CCSD No. 1 Board approved the schedule change in Spring 2018.

“Now, we can get all the teachers in the same room talking the same language on the same day,” Broderson said.

To compensate for the lost day, CCSD No. 1 increased the school day Monday through Thursday by about 40 minutes. One Friday a month is also dedicated to intervention and enrichment, allowing students an opportunity to spend time with teachers one-on-one if they are struggling.

“(Intervention and enrichment) days are about making sure kids can get help if they need,” Broderson explained, “and providing kids with things they like to do, because we feel having a healthy culture is also important.”

Wyoming’s school districts will likely continue to experiment with alternate schedules in the foreseeable future, working out what works best for them on a case-to-case basis, Magee said.

“I think the trends show we’ll probably see the same number of (alternate schedule) requests, but it’s hard to say,” she said. “I don’t have any data pointing to an influx or a decrease in requests we might receive in the next few years.”

Wyoming’s 65th Legislature: General Session Review

in Agriculture/Criminal justice/Education/Health care/News/Taxes
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It’s all over for this year. Check out our bitesized rundown of what passed and what failed in the 65th Wyoming Legislature’s General Session. Stay tuned this weekend for more analysis on the session highs and lows with our Robert Geha.

Thanks for watching and be sure to follow Cowboy State Daily for our expanded statewide coverage of Wyoming news coming to your feed in the days ahead.

Community college bachelor’s degree bill will help industry: Chamber official

in Business/Education/News
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By Cowboy State Daily

One of the last bills to pass during the Legislature’s general session should help the state’s businesses find the better educated workers they need, according to the head of Cheyenne’s Chamber of Commerce.

Dale Steenbergen, chief executive officer of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, said SF 111 will help answer the demand among the state’s industries for an educated workforce.

“Something that our industries have been screaming for that they need, they need better educated employees,” he said. “We talk about the workforce and the lack of education for workforce here all the time and this can be a real game changer for us.”

The bill was among the last approved by Wyoming’s House on Wednesday as the Legislature wrapped up its general session. It would allow the state’s community colleges to offer four-year bachelor’s degrees in applied sciences.

Bill would let UW borrow $88 million for new dorms

in Education/News
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By Cowboy State Daily

A proposal to let the University of Wyoming borrow $88 million to build new dormitories is under consideration by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

HB 293 has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill would let the university borrow $88 million from the state’s budget reserve account — also called the “rainy day fund” — to build enough new dormitories to house 2,000 beds.

The money would also be used to renovate or demolish old dormitories on campus. 

Because the work on the dormitories would affect traffic at the university, another $3.5 million from the state’s main bank account would be used for a traffic impact study.

The plan has the backing of university students, who say the replacement of the old dormitories will help lure more students to Laramie.

“Especially with the dean’s office and the president’s office wanting to increase enrollment over the next couple years in our strategic plan, it is very, very crucial to the University of Wyoming that we get new dorms as soon as possible,” said Adrian Vetter, a senator with the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming.

Wyoming Legislature: Where they are

in Education/News/Taxes
Wyoming Legislature bill analysis where they are
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By Cowboy State Daily

Here is a look at the status of some of the bills being considered by Wyoming’s Legislature during its general session:

  • HB 14 — Creating the “Mountain Daylight Savings Time” zone for Wyoming. Defeated in Senate “Committee of the Whole.”
  • HB 38 — Raising legislative expense reimbursements from $109 per day to $149. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • HB 52 — Giving preference to Wyoming-made products in furnishing state buildings. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • HB 66 — Setting a statewide lodging tax of 5 percent. Introduced in Senate, referred to Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee.
  • HB 71 — Raising the penalty for violating equal pay rules to $500 per day. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • HB 140 — Imposing a 48-hour waiting period to perform abortions. No action will be taken in Senate committee before the end of session.
  • HB 145 — Eliminating the death penalty. Killed in Senate “Committee of the Whole.”
  • HB 192 — Requiring photo ID to vote. Killed on third reading in House.
  • HB 220 — Imposing an income tax on out-of-state companies with business locations in Wyoming. Introduced in Senate, referred to Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Comittee.
  • HB 251 — Authorizing Wyoming to sue the state of Washington over it refusal to allow the construction of a coal port. Introduced in Senate, referred to Senate Minerals Committee.
  • HJ 1 — Asking the federal government to delist the grizzly bear. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • SF 46 — Limiting the length of a prescription of opioids to 14 days. Introduced by House, referred to Labor, Health and Social Services Committee.
  • SF 57 — Setting a deadline for the release of public documents by government agencies. Approved on second reading in House.
  • SF 119 — Making all expenditures by the state auditor’s office public and available for review. Introduced in House, referred to House Appropriations Committee.
  • SF 129 — Repealing requirements for reports from the state Department of Education. Joint conference committee appointed to resolve House and Senate differences.
  • SF 148 — Allowing the state to seize and operate federal facilities — including national parks — under certain conditions. Killed in House Minerals Committee.
  • SF 149 — Creating a “Capitol Complex” around the state Capitol and giving the state building commission authority for planning in the area. Approved by House Rules Committee.
  • SF 160 — Requiring changes in voter party affiliation to take place two weeks before absentee ballots are distributed. Introduced in House, referred to House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee.
  • SJ 3 — Declaring Dec. 10, 2019, as Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Day. Signed into law by governor.

School safety bill awaiting House review

in Education/News
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By Cowboy State Daily

A measure proposing a comprehensive safety and security plan for Wyoming’s schools is awaiting its first debate in front of the full House.

SF 64 would require the state’s schools and superintendent of public instruction go prepare safety and security guidelines for schools, along with staff training and drills to prepare for attacks by intruders.

Schools would also have to develop strategies for identifying students who could potentially engage in violent behavior and craft a system to alert officials when an attack on a school occurs.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said it is important to consider the issue of school safety comprehensively.

“When we really look at school safety and security comprehensively, we need to consider and act on the well being of every single student to make our schools safe,” she said.

Riverton brothers set their sights on Tinseltown: Central Wyoming College offers transferable film production degree

in Education/News
Man with video camera recording video, ALT=video production, Central Wyoming College
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By Ike Fredregill
Cowboy State Daily

Inspired by their father’s acting career and passion for the film industry, two Riverton brothers — Boone and Copeland Williams — have their eyes set on the silver screen, but only if it means they can work together.

“We’re kind of a package deal, I guess,” Boone, 21, explained. “It works well, because I can push his buttons and he can push mine, but we’re family, so we can’t give up on each other.”

The film industry can be a difficult trade to break into, especially for two brothers living in the middle of Wyoming — a state known for its vast landscapes, western culture and lack of representation in film.

But as fortune would have it, the middle of the state is the perfect, and possibly only, place for someone pursuing an education in cinematography.
Central Wyoming College is the only post-secondary school in the state to offer a degree in film production, according to Jeremy Nielsen, CWC’s associate professor of film.

“There’s not a large film industry here in Wyoming,” Nielsen said. “As far as I know, I’m the only film professor in the state.”

The Williams brothers are slated to graduate from the program in spring, and with degrees in hand, Copeland said they will either transfer to a university with a film production program or join the military, but they won’t go their separate ways.

“I’m not sure we’d find better success if one of us were to go one place and the other to another, because the best ideas we’ve put forward, we worked on together,” Copeland, 25, said. “We’re probably far more likely to be successful together than apart.”

Wyoming doesn’t have a strong presence in the film production industry because, in part, residents don’t place high value on arts careers, Nielsen theorized. 

“The things that Wyomingites tend to value are not always artistic endeavors,” he said. “Convincing people to sign up for a course that isn’t seen as productive as engineering or business can be a challenge.”

In his seventh year at CWC, the 42-year-old film professor said he is working to change that. When Nielsen first started at the community college, he said the film production program averaged about six students a semester. Nowadays, around 24 students could be enrolled in the program at any given time, Nielsen said.

Shortly after he moved to Riverton from Utah, the Wyoming Office of Tourism recognized the potential of the film program’s ability to build film industry infrastructure within the state, increasing the likelihood of attracting large movie producers, and it invited Nielsen to join the Wyoming Film Finance Committee. 

“The Wyoming Office of Tourism wanted to boost the number of films shot in Wyoming,” he said. “They came up with a multi-prong approach — we need infrastructure, a film school and to incentivize film production.”

One of the largest challenges to shooting movies within the state is a lack of experienced camera crews, lighting specialists and stage hands, but the film production program could remedy that. 

“If you bring people in (from outside the state), you have to start paying them on a different structure and housing them and it gets a bit complicated,” Nielsen explained. “In some cases, film companies will bring their own crews, but it’s often just for a day or two.”

A large production set could employ more than 100 people at a time, and even independent film companies often hire about 20 to 30 production specialists, he said. 

“It’s an incredibly public art form — it is consumed by the public, but it is also created by the public in that it is not a single piece of art created by single person for a specific audience,” Nielsen said. “The jobs are very specialized. There’s a crew on a set that’s responsible for the lights, but there’s also a whole other crew responsible for the shadows.”

Being able to provide people experienced enough to fill these rosters is an important factor in attracting film producers.

Enter stage right: Nielsen’s students.

“On the first day of class, I put a camera in their hands and tell them we’re making a movie today, and we’re watching it today,” Nielsen said. “The film industry is more about experience than anything else, and I want my students to feel competent around all the equipment they may encounter when they leave here.”

One of the ways he’s recently helped CWC film production graduates further their career is by changing the nature of the program.

“The degree has changed from a technical studies certificate — offered in the same vein as automotive or welding courses,” Nielsen said. “I’ve worked to develop the program into a transfer degree.”

Unfortunately, the University of Wyoming doesn’t offer a film production degree, so Boone and Copeland will need to transfer elsewhere to continue their education.

Leaving the state isn’t what Boone had in mind when he started the CWC program last semester.

“I’ve lived in about 20 different places,” he said. “But this is where I was born, and this is the place I like the most, so this is where I’m from.”

After moving to Riverton, Boone and Copeland’s father decided to dabble in some college courses, Copeland said.

“I had just moved back in, and I was kind of directionless,” he recalled. “My dad used his GI Bill to take some of the film classes and told me to give a shot, even if for just one semester. And that kind of started all this.”

The family has talked about starting a film production company, but Boone and Copeland need to finish their education first, which means leaving home. 

“I see Wyoming as having great potential,” Boone said. “I don’t know how exactly to go about it, but I’d like to put my experience to use here and open some of that potential.”

Boone said the brothers have their eyes set on the University of Utah’s film production courses, but if the school doesn’t take both of them, they’ll join the U.S. Air Force and use their service benefits to further their careers.
“Either we both go to Utah, or we both join the military,” he said.

Copeland said the two developed a strong bond early in life when their parents divorced, but while other siblings often grow independent through the years, he and Boone’s relationship brought them closer together.

“Since we were kids — I was like 11 and Boone might’ve been 4 — we spent a lot of time together,” he explained. “We share a lot of the same interests. Working together, we know how to bounce ideas off each other and move toward something we both like.”

While the brothers bump heads on occasion, they fervently agreed the CWC film production program was one the best choices they made.

“I’m taking these classes because I want to learn the stuff, not because I need it for a degree,” Copeland said. “One of the things I like most — I hate homework most of the time — but the assignments in the film program are things I actually care about.”

Boone added, “I love this program. Most other college classes don’t really engage me, but more than that, they don’t offer the hands-on learning opportunities I get in film production.”

Hathaway scholarship for selected out-of-state students headed for final review

in Education/News
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By Cowboy State Daily

Selected graduates of out-of-state high schools would be able to apply a state Hathaway Scholarship under a bill approved in its second reading in the House on Wednesday.

Representatives voted to send HB 133 on for a third and final House review.Supporters including Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, said the program would be a good way to lure students from other states to Wyoming.

“We want to try to reach out and grab some of the better students, or real smart students … in the surrounding states,” he said.

The bill would allow two students from each state that shares a border with Wyoming to apply for the scholarship each year. The winners of the “Hathaway expands Wyoming” scholarships would be selected by a committee made up of the governor, superintendent of public instruction, president of the University of Wyoming and the director of the Wyoming Community College Commission and would receive funding for up to four years of college.

For every four semesters of scholarship funds provided, recipients would have to agree to either work in Wyoming for one year or attend graduate school at the University of Wyoming for one year.

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