Steamboat schools seek to gauge community interest in a four-day week with survey |

Steamboat schools seek to gauge community interest in a four-day week with survey

Steamboat Springs School District recently sent out a survey to gauge community interest in exploring the possibility of a four-day school week.

The deadline for submission is April 7, and results are expected to be reviewed at the Steamboat Springs Board of Education meeting on April 10. 

First grade teacher Kim Waldschmidt, who has been with the district since 2001, acting as the Steamboat Springs Education Association president brought the idea to the school board’s attention at a coffee with the board event, which board members host to get input on various topics from the community. 

The survey went out to educators, families, local businesses and the Steamboat Springs community at-large. Waldschimdit said preventing teacher burnout is one of the main driving forces behind advocating for this transition. 

“We are currently the only school in our Northwest Board of Cooperative Educational Services that isn’t on a four-day schedule,” Waldschmidt said. “We are in a crisis in education nationally with finding teachers and staff. This idea is really cost neutral to the district that might help attract and retain teachers.”

As of last June, 69% of school districts in Colorado utilize a four-day school week, according to the Colorado Department of Education. 

To better inform the survey, Superintendent Celine Wicks said she consulted two professors of education that aided her in digging into research for both sides of the argument. 

Wicks said she wants to emphasize the survey is to see if community members would be interested in further exploring the issue. Even if the survey showed overwhelming community support, the change would not come until years from now, as districts have to plan each school year out well in advance. 

South Routt School District Superintendent Kirk Henwood said his district has found great value in a four-day week. Notably, fewer kids are out absent due to doctors and dentist appointments.

“One of the most simplistic arguments against it is kids miss out on 20% of learning,” Henwood said. “That’s not true. The state has a requirement of instructional minutes, and we are still meeting that with a four-day week.”

Henwood noted that for a district to make this switch, it has to submit a four-day school week application, the school calendar, bell schedules and, like every other five-day-a-week school, a total of instructional hours. 

In order to meet the requirement of instructional minutes with a four-day schedule, districts need to have longer school days. Waldschmidt said the extension of the day would especially help elementary school educators. 

“The longer day helps with instructional blocks in terms of hitting every core subject area and doing it well,” Waldschmidt said. “There’s not enough minutes in the day to match what research is saying students at that age need for their blocks of learning.”

Waldschimdit said supporters of this transition have looked into how this could provide more consistency for district schedules. For instance, professional development days could always be scheduled for Friday so students wouldn’t have to miss a school day.   

Although the four-day week would give students a shorter week, it would not necessarily give educators and staff a shorter week. Waldschimdit indicated teachers would likely have to work one to two Fridays a month. 

A similar survey went out to the Steamboat Springs Education Association, essentially a teacher’s union, and out of the 97 members that filled out the survey, 70% showed support in further exploring the matter.

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