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News / Clark County News

Seton Catholic Prep set to shift to 4-day school week

Officials: Overhaul will not decrease school’s learning time

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 16, 2024, 6:07am

Vancouver’s Seton Catholic Prep is set to shift to a four-day instructional week in the 2024-25 school year, a significant overhaul to the private school’s bell schedule.

Students and staff at Seton Catholic can expect to have seven-period days from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. School leaders say the shift won’t decrease the school’s total learning time and will open up space in students’ schedules for community service opportunities and other extracurricular activities.

“We’re excited just because it allows for that work-school harmony,” Principal Robert Rusk said.

Four-day instructional weeks have grown in popularity in recent years but remain rare in Washington and beyond. As of fall 2023, just 10 public school districts in the state use that model. Proponents of the idea tout the schedule can save school districts money on operation and transportation costs, especially in rural areas.

At Seton Catholic, the idea for the shift came for several reasons, Rusk said: Students wanted more flexibility in their schedules, teachers are seeking more professional development opportunities and the school’s existing bell schedule had grown confusing.

As it stands, students have a hybrid block schedule with seven-period days some days, longer classes other days and early-release days littered throughout. The new schedule, Rusk said, would eliminate almost all early-release days and streamline the daily schedule.

“Our part-time teachers and subs were confused with the inconsistencies in the schedule,” Rusk said. “We thought, ‘How could we move to a clear and consistent schedule?’”

New Mondays

Seton Catholic students are required to complete 100 community service hours in order to graduate. Typically, students find time to squeeze in those hours — working at food banks, tutoring younger students and more — either before school, after school or on weekends.

Because the hours are a requirement, the work often meant sacrificing sports or club participation. Rusk said he expects Mondays can be a great opportunity to give students a consistent time to work on those community service requirements.

“These kids have a lot to do,” Rusk said. “This is giving them time to work on college apps, look for scholarships or getting into job shadows or internships. It opens up their schedules.”

Rusk also said he and other school leaders had become aware of how students and staff were using so much of their personal time Sundays to prepare for the week ahead. As a leader at a religious institution, it didn’t sit right with him, he said.

“We weren’t honoring Sunday as a day of rest to spend with family,” he said. “Now, we can work on time management on Monday instead.”

The biggest drawback he’s seen so far considering the schedule changes has pertained to transportation. As has been the case with other, larger school districts, such as Evergreen and Vancouver, new bell times present shake-ups to family schedules that are hard to embrace at first.

Rusk said Seton Catholic is working to help organize carpooling next year — previously a task left to parents.

The school is in the final steps of developing a new webpage to explain all of the changes for the next school year.

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