Hayden schools move to four-day week | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden schools move to four-day week

The map above shows all the Colorado School Districts currently with four-day weeks. Hayden School District is looking to join them for the 2019-2020 school year. (Map courtesy)

HAYDEN — Eliminating Fridays, Hayden schools will move to a four-day week at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.

About 58 percent of Colorado’s 178 districts have gone to four-day weeks, the majority of those in rural areas. About 75 percent of the state’s smaller districts have four-day weeks.

Following two public meetings and a student survey, the Hayden School District Board of Education unanimously voted on Feb. 11 to move to the four-day week.

While cost is often cited as a primary factor, it wasn’t for Hayden, said Superintendent Christy Sinner. It does cut an average of 5 to 7 percent of a district’s budget, especially in areas like transportation, food service and salaries.

But the construction of the new school and surrounding logistics is a big part of the decision, said board member Tammie Delaney.

“The driving force is ensuring the best environment for the children,” Delaney said.

Next fall, the Hayden Elementary School will move to the secondary/high school site while the new preK-12 facility is under construction.

Groundbreaking on the $61 million ($38.8 million from the BEST grant) new campus is planned for the spring, with an opening date set for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

The goal, said Sinner, “is to eliminate stress on everyone’s part. And focus on the safety of the students.” Having a full three days when the kids aren’t in school will make the process more efficient, she said.

A four-day week doesn’t reduce any of the “contact time” students have in school. Instead of going to school for six hours a day for 180 days, schedules change to approximately 7.5 hours per day for 144 days.

Two other benefits are adding more collaborative planning and professional development time for teachers and making the schedule more accommodating for students participating in athletics, which is a large percentage of the student body, Sinner noted, who often miss Fridays for travel.

Sinner said they’d try four-day weeks for the next couple years and see how it goes.

A four-day week is something they looked at several years ago, but the primary concern among board members was risking a negative impact to academic achievement. As more schools in Colorado switch to the four-day week, there is more research on what, if any, effects the difference has on academic performance.

Presented with about 200 pages of data and studies, the board felt confident that student learning would not be hurt. Studies suggesting improvement, no effects and detrimental impacts were included in their packet, along with lists of many of the pros and cons debated by other districts.

“South Routt School District is very pleased with the move to a four-day week,” South Routt School District Superintendent Rim Watson wrote in an email. “The implementation of the decision provided opportunities to support our students with extra educational support, enrichment activities and participation in sports, without missing classes. With the four-day week, we were still able to be Accredited with Distinction and ranked among the top ten school districts in the state.”

Based on a  study of 67 four-day districts in the state, the Colorado Department of Education states in their Four-Day Week Information Manual, “Overall, there appears to be little difference between four and five day weeks in terms of status as reflected in percent proficient and advanced regardless of content area.  There also appears to be little clear difference in terms of median growth percentiles in either content area.”

On the pro side of academics, they cite improved attendance, participation and discipline.

The extensive look into the available research was an important part of the decision for the board, Delaney said.

The main concern heard from the community has to do with families finding affordable care and enriching activities on Fridays.

The nonprofit Totally Kids will offer Friday care for $25 per day ($20 for a second child in a family), expanding on what they already offer in extended hours, summer camps, holidays and breaks. They also have been offering care on Fridays when there is no school, said director Carolyn Gregory. They use school facilities, and have a capacity of 50 kids. Gregory said that she is talking with the state about expanding that. They did reach capacity during the summer and had to turn kids away, she said.

Gregory said her biggest challenge is staffing — especially for breaks and holidays.

Delany’s excited about the possibilities for bringing in new opportunities and added enrichment. “We live in one of the most amazing spots in the world,” she said.

They envision working with communities partners to get kids out doing things like skiing and fly-fishing. They are also working with Colorado Mountain College to offer college courses on Fridays, other advanced classes, and adding additional help for students who are struggling, Delaney said.

Other concerns from the community was the longer school day accommodating the schedules of kids who participate in sports and activities in Steamboat or Craig and making sure the new schedule fully accommodates kids with special needs, Delaney said. The concerns are “very valid,” she said, but she’s confident the district and community can step up and make it work.

The next step is to create a new calendar and daily schedule based on the required hours.

A committee will be set up to gather input in creating a schedule to present to the board in March. The group’s first meeting will be Thursday, Feb. 21 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @KariHarden.

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