Backed by public opinion, officials of the Mark Twain Union School District scaled back a proposal to release students early every Monday from the district's two elementary schools.

At a special meeting at Mark Twain Union Elementary School in Angels Camp yesterday, the district board voted to make every other Friday a "minimum day," beginning April 11.

A minimum day cuts about two hours from class time. The move is necessary, school officials said, to give teachers time to prepare for classes.

Board members said the rest of this school year would be a "trial period" and that more minimum days might be added before fall.

School officials had asked the district board to schedule all Mondays as minimum days.

Ken Swanner, the seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher at Mark Twain, said the schedule approved yesterday will allow teachers to communicate with each other, to keep students from moving from one grade to the next without learning skills they will need down the road.

"I'm happy that they're going to give us the days we need to get the project through its first phase," Swanner said.

In three public meetings about the minimum-day schedule, several parents spoke against the proposal, saying it would be detrimental to students to shorten classroom time. Teachers and school volunteers, however, supported the reduced schedule.

Angels Camp resident Patti Spence said the board should wait until next year to implement the new schedule. She said school administrators and parents would then have more time to prepare for the early release days.

Surveys sent by the board to all families in the school district showed there is community support for the minimum-day schedule, which still allows students to meet state standards for hours in school.

According to 110 surveys returned from Mark Twain, 70 families favored an early release schedule. Of 62 surveys returned from Copperopolis Elementary School, 54 families supported the proposal.