Friday, March 23, 2018

Third grader Tyliss Hodges of Spring Creek School in Decker points out a picture he drew of a troodon, a small, bird-like dinosaur whose name means “wounding tooth” and is believed to have weighed about 100 pounds. Looking on are lead teacher Alexis Nikirk and second grader Tristan Martin.Spring Creek first grader Keia Monteau (right) works through math problems with her teacher Jill Newman. Along with fellow educator Alexis Nikirk, Newman is one of two teachers at the school.


Proposed four-day school week welcomed by Spring Creek community
Backed by what appears to be unanimous support from both parents and teachers, Decker’s Spring Creek School is likely to switch from a five to a four-day school week. If approved, the four-day system will take effect in the next school year.
During an April 10 community meeting, an estimated 20 people, including former students, attended to voice their support for the switch. The school board is scheduled to decide whether to implement the four-day week at their 5 p.m. meeting on May 8.
“They’re going to do it for one year,” said District Superintendent Dennis Gerke, “Then, they’re going to revisit it at the end of next year to see how it went.
“I think it will be a good change for up there.”
Lead Spring Creek teacher Alexis Nikirk wrote in an email that “everything was positive” at the meeting. Supporters of the new schedule, she stated, said the four-day week would give students more time to be with their families, work on the ranch, go to appointments without missing school and participate in other activities.
Spring Creek is a one-room schoolhouse with sixstudents who alternate between teachers Nikirk and Jill Newman for lessons in math, science, reading and more. According to Nikirk, the longer four-day schedules will allow her to go more in depth with her lessons.
“To me, it’s just having that longer period of time with the kids, where I’m not as rushed,” she said. “We’ve got so many different grade levels, [and with the change] I can focus and really get that quality time for instruction.”
A five-day school week, Monday to Friday, typically lasts seven hours per day for Spring Creek students. A four-day week, Monday to Thursday, would give Nikirk and Newman an extra 45 minutes per day to teach.
Spring Creek currently has students in kindergarten through third grade, though it has gone up to eighth grade in the past. Many of these students, according to Nikirk, travel south by bus for 45 minutes to an hour from Busby. Nikirk and Newman travel about 20 miles north from their homes in Sheridan, Wyo. to reach the school.
Gerke, in his approval of the change, cited his past experience implementing a four-day week in the Centerville School District located just southeast of Great Falls. This 2011 decision, Gerke said, saved money and allowed students to have Fridays off for sporting events.
The main issue brought up in the Spring Creek parents’ survey was whether the school would continue its educational field trips on Fridays.
“One of the special things about Spring Creek School is that, on Friday afternoons, we go to town and do activities – we’ve had gymnastics, ice skating, swimming lessons, we’re starting Tae Kwon Do in a couple of weeks,” Nikirk said. “That’s important to us, and our families really thrive on that, so we don’t want to lose that.”
To remedy the situation, and continue to provide opportunities for their students, Nikirk intends to take the students on trips the first Friday of every month.
Most of the other possible issues, she continued – a need for childcare or school as a routine – “don’t really apply for our families.”
“Our kids are all ranch kids,” she said. “They’ve got…somebody at home where they can be working, supervised and taken care of.”