A small, rural school in northwest Utah is hoping to boost attendance by keeping students home on Fridays.

The Utah Board of Education voted unanimously on Friday to let Park Valley Elementary and Secondary School operate on a four-day schedule this fall.

Park Valley enrolls roughly 30 students in kindergarten through 10th grade. But most students at the school in Box Elder County miss between one-fourth and one-third of their classes due to family ranching obligations, teacher Hallie Kunzler said.

Kunzler said Park Valley parents have agreed to consolidate ranching duties on the weekend if the school's four-day format is approved.

"We really believe that we will increase our instructional time with our students if this change is passed," Kunzler said.

State law requires public schools to hold classes for at least 990 hours and 180 days each year. But the Utah Board of Education is allowed to grant waivers to those minimum requirements.

Other rural schools have successfully requested truncated schedules. And the Winter Sports School in Park City holds classes during the traditional summer break to give students free time during the ski season.

Sonya Spackman, a mother of three Park Valley students, said she hates for her children to miss school, but that periodic absences are a necessity.

Family ranching operations require a lot of work, Spackman said, and children are learning skills that most will apply to future ranching careers.

"They will also one day be taking over these businesses," she said. "This is their hands-on training for that."

The unincorporated community is also isolated, Spackman said, requiring long drives for doctors visits and other errands that bite into classroom attendance.

"With the traditional school week, our kids miss a lot of school," she said.

A school board committee voted unanimously on Thursday to approve Park Valley's request. A vote of the full board, scheduled to occur Friday afternoon, is required for final approval.

More information will be provided as it becomes available.


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