A three-month experiment to give students Fridays off was so successful that the Hayden School District has decided to use the schedule throughout the 2007-08 school year.
The past two years, students had Fridays off every week from Christmas break through spring break. This year, the school district will use the same number of Fridays off for teacher collaboration. But the new schedule includes two Fridays off each month throughout the school year.
"What this does is allow teaching staff to sustain work they are doing throughout the year, instead of a compacted time in the winter months," said Superintendent Mike Luppes. "The student/teacher contact days are the same as before. What has changed is the distribution of Fridays."
The first day of school for students in Hayden is Sept. 4, and the first Friday off is Sept. 14. Students will have 156 days of teacher contact, which is similar to last year's calendar.
Luppes said teachers will have specific requirements to meet on the Friday training days. "It's not just additional planning or work time. We have specific programs we are trying to implement."
He said work staff will continue to train in positive learning support, response to interventions and professional learning communities.
School Board President Brian Hoza said spreading the Fridays off throughout the year will foster a more productive atmosphere for students and staff.
"Our staff was really asking for some intervention time earlier in the year," he said. "We think it will balance things out by dispersing the Fridays off. We found that once we went to a full four-day week, it was difficult to go back. To do that in the middle or end of the year is more problematic."
Hoza and Luppes said parents have been supportive of the schedule.
"We really did not have any issues," Luppes said. "There were no concerns through the winter months. We haven't heard that as an issue this year either. I'm sure there are some folks who may have to scramble for day care, but it isn't a concern we've had expressed at the district level.
Hoza said the School Board determined parents would have an easier time finding day care options if Fridays off were dispersed throughout they year, rather than concentrated in the winter.
"Actually, we have gotten feedback that it's less problematic," he said. "Hopefully, we will find the schedule will have less impact on day care than it previously did."
In previous years when the Hayden students had Fridays off, many parents turned to the Totally Kids program's Friday day camp for students ages 5 to 12.
Donna Bertram, who is on Totally Kid's board of directors, said the program will be revived if parents express enough interest.
"It has been successful in recent years and has been a good resource for parents," she said. "It also saves some money for parents because you can pay for just one day instead of having to reserve a space in day care."