School board members weigh in on potential new calendar ahead of presentation
Come Jan. 27, Moffat County School District could be looking ahead to a new type of school week.
The district’s calendar committee is set to consider restructuring the school calendar — pending school board approval — and that could include a four-day school week.
School board member Krystal Fedinec wrote in a statement to the Craig Press that she has discussed the possibility with various stakeholders — such as educators and parents — about the concerns that would arise if the calendar should adopt a new structure. Fedinec, who represents the county at-large, emphasized that it would take work to make sure that all of the concerns are taken care of, but she said she still supports the transition to a four-day school week.
Specifically, Fedinec said that the switch could result in a financial benefit for the school’s budget and more time for staff training, team building and collaboration.
“As for concerns, I really have only heard a few, and they all deal with childcare, lengthening the school day and lengthening the school year. Childcare is the biggest one I hear, though,” Fedinec wrote. “This is something that all parents deal with on summer break, holiday breaks, spring break and the days that we have had to have students off due to other reasons. We do have options in the community to help with this concern like the Boys and Girls Club.”
Fedinec pointed out that the concept is hardly novel to the region.
“Most of our surrounding districts are on a four-day week, so we have the benefit of seeing what has worked and what hasn’t,” she wrote. “There will always be some good and some bad that comes with change, we have to weigh out what’s best for our district at this time.”
In recent weeks, the committee has sent out questionnaires about what changes parents, teachers and other community members would be open to seeing, and what changes could potentially cause issues. Feedback has shown some community members feel strongly about the strain four-day school weeks could cause on parents finding childcare.
Among the questions the calendar committee asked was the public’s opinion about moving to an overall four-day week. In one option, the committee asks how supportive survey takers are about having just one Friday off per month for students, with the rest of the weeks remaining five days per week. Another option is having students not attend on Fridays while staff have half of the Fridays as professional development days and are not required to work on the other Fridays.
Other members of the board are waiting until the calendar committee’s presentation before deciding what could work for the district in years to come. Board Secretary Cindy Looper said that she is open-minded to the change, but she is focused on how it would affect student growth. Members Lynne Seely and Heather Cannon told the Craig Press they are planning on reaching out to more educators and parents before the committee’s presentation later this month.
Right now, Moffat County and Steamboat Springs school districts are the only districts in the area that are still operating five days per week. Hayden, Baggs and Meeker, which all operate on four-day weeks, all are also approved to attend school fewer than 160 days. Maybell Elementary, which is part of MCSD, also runs four days per week, with Friday being a professional development day.
Across the state of Colorado, 116 school districts are approved to serve fewer than 160 days during their school years. Though their schedules and calendars vary, all of them still provide the same amount of instructional hours that five-day school schedules do. Colorado law requires that students receive a certain amount of “contact time,” and schools adjust calendars to fulfill that requirement — 1,080 hours per year of instructional time for secondary schools and 990 instructional hours for elementary schools.
According to the Colorado Department of Education’s Four-Day School Week Information Manual, that accounts for 65% of the state’s 178 school districts. Many of them are rural, but in recent years, more urban districts are opting for taking on the change as a recruitment tool. School District 27J in Adams County — which includes more than 18,000 students and covers schools in parts of Aurora, Brighton, Commerce City, Lochbuie and Thornton — made the switch in 2018 to retain its teachers.
School board member JoBeth Tupa said that while having a four-day week could be beneficial for recruitment for teachers (especially since other schools in the area already run four days per week), hourly employees should still be considered. Going down a day could mean affecting the benefits or pay that they rely on. Cutting costs should not be on the backs of some of the lowest-paid employees, Tupa said.
“Now, as we revisit it, it’s possible we could look at adjusting our salary schedule and benefits for everyone, but I’m not sure what (the committee) will present,” she said. “We’re one of the few districts in the area that still are on a five-day school schedule, so sometimes it is harder to recruit in that way. But the calendar committee has come together now to address it. In the end, it has to be what’s beneficial for kids, but (the calendar committee) is also looking at several different models.”
MCSD — like many schools across the nation — is facing staff shortages, including in support positions like bus drivers and lunch staff. Teachers, higher administrators and even school board members have stepped up to fill in on some of those roles, but that is unlikely to be a sustainable model for covering those positions. Many of those support staff members fall under that hourly wage category.
In 2011, Dianne L. Lefly, CDE Research and Evaluation, and Jhon Penn, CDE Field Services, completed a study comparing how students react and learn in five-day and four-day weeks.
In the study, Penn and Lefly specifically compare school districts of similar size in Colorado and how they performed on certain statewide assessments. In most cases, there was little to no difference between schools with five days per week and four. The study shows that, for districts with student populations between 601 and 1,200 children, elementary students in five-day structures had 63.7% math proficiency and four-day students had 69.1%. For high school, the two were within one percentage point of each other, and middle school students scored within four percentage points.
Reading scores reflected similar results when comparing schools of similar size.
“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,” the study’s conclusion reads. “There also appears to be little clear difference in terms of median growth percentiles in either content area.”
This isn’t the first time that the idea of a four-day school week has been brought up.
In 2015, talks of a new calendar circulated among MCSD community members. Then, again, in February of 2017, the MCSD school board brought up the change as a possibility for funding $17 million in capital projects, according to previous reporting from the Craig Press. By April of 2017, that option was off the table because of then-board members’ concerns of how it would affect hourly staff and the potential to explore other options to fund capital projects. In 2021, the board went to voters to ask for a mill levy increase to help fund over $40 million in building repairs, but Moffat County voters turned down the bond measure.
During election season, discussion among then-candidates for MCSD school board of potentially bringing a new calendar was one of the hot topics. Many candidates, including some who were elected, said then that they were open to the possibility, but that they would need to do more research before making a sound decision.
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