Four-day school week, staff shortages among hot topics at school board forum
In addition to top priorities, candidates for the Moffat County School Board discussed several ideas that could help improve the school district if they are elected.
One of those ideas came from Jnl Linsacum, who proposed the option of a four-day school week in order to help the strain caused by staff shortages in the district. As of Oct. 13, there are still six high-school staff positions, 10 athletics and activities positions and two elementary positions. District-wide, there are 39 openings.
“I feel like one of my purposes would be that we are looking at a four day school week, so that teachers can have time to plan,” Linsacum said. “And I would like the community and the students and staff to all be involved in that process. But having gone through it in Hayden, I understand, and I could have some input on it.”
Right now because of staff shortages, teachers often take over various duties that take them away from planning periods that would normally be spent preparing for class. Often, teachers take lunch duty shifts or cover other classes during those times, as well. Administrators have taken shifts driving buses and serving lunch, and the school district has been operating with about 75% of its usual fleet of bus drivers.
“I feel like we have to keep our salaries competitive (to keep and retain teachers),” Linsacum said. “We need to provide meaningful professional development and resources to provide quality education. And we need to look at the housing shortage. I know (Superintendent Scott Pankow) has looked at and has been talking with the hospital and is looking at ideas for teacher shortages to address that issue, not just for teachers, but housing shortage (in Craig) as well.”
At September’s school board meeting, Pankow said he planned on speaking with Andy Daniels, CEO of Memorial Regional Health, and city manager Peter Brixius about potential housing opportunities where the old hospital used to be. Though nothing concrete has happened since then, there is a possibility that up to 20 units might be used for the school district.
Krystal Fedinec, a first-time candidate for the school board, said she was also interested in possibly seeing a four-day school week in the school district.
“I also am somewhat interested in pursuing the four day school week only because I have talked to a few family members and friends in other communities that have seen huge growth and huge benefits with the four-day school week in budgets, in testing scores and all of that,” Fedinec said. “That would be another thing that I would be interested in pursuing (as a school board member).”
Cindy Looper, who currently sits on the board and is running for one of the at-large seats, said that her top concern for the district was staff shortages. Looper mentioned that staffing is a consistent problem in the school district.
“Attracting teachers, that’s so hard because (our community is) remote,” she said. “They can go to Wyoming and make more money, and we have lost teachers to Wyoming before. But the downside of that is you have to live in Wyoming. Colorado has a lot to offer, and this area has a lot to offer. So it’s a matter of letting people know what we have available and doing the best with what we’ve got.”
Lynne Seely, who is running for the District B seat against Linsacum, said that good communication with current teachers is the key to retention.
“(We) definitely would need to talk about what they need for their family life,” she said. “What do they need to build their career? What do they need to feel accepted in our community? What do they need to know — like if they’re being challenged and are having a very good experience working in Moffat County. There’s a lot of really good things that we have to offer to educators and hopefully that is working with them and listening to people that come in to work in our community.”
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The Moffat County Board of Education aims to have a new superintendent hired shortly after the Fourth of July.