What would it take for MCSD to have a four-day school week?
As the conversation is brought to the fore in the district’s school board race, Moffat County School District is already in the midst of active discussion about the possibility for a four-day school week.
Since last semester, the school district has had a calendar committee that decides the calendar for the district. The calendar committee meets again Tuesday, Oct. 26, and Superintendent Scott Pankow said that the committee will take a look at all of the different plans that could potentially become the new calendar (if it changes at all).
“Where we’re at right now in October (is) we’ve had stakeholders on (the committee) look at it, and we’ve researched different calendars,” Pankow said. “The purpose for us to change any calendar, the purpose statement, was to maximize opportunities for student learning and support student growth. Then it also addressed teacher retention and recruitment, efficiencies, utilize collaboration efforts and prioritize our time or our district commission of vision.”
Some years, the school board approves multiple years of calendars in a row, and calendar committees are not a yearly occurrence. Moffat County School District school board member Jnl Linsacum said that a calendar committee was discussed heavily last year, but it was postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In November, the committee will look to community and staff feedback, including input from stakeholders like the Boys and Girls Club, which will further influence the plan. Pankow said that in December, the committee may make adjustments again and get more community feedback before presenting it to the board in January.
In the state of Colorado, 114 school districts, or 64%, of the 178 school districts — plus one BOCES-operated school and select schools of the Charter School Institute — utilize the four-day school week. In order to receive the same amount of instruction as the traditional school weeks, some districts schedule 7.5 hours per day for 144 days of school instead of the normal six hours for 180 days.
In June of 2021, the Colorado Department of Education revised its Four-Day School Week Information Manual.
Though these schedules vary from district to district, for many students, this means they get home at around the same time as parents who work 9-5 jobs. Some proponents of the four-day week argue that this could help parents actually save on child care. Finding a babysitter for one day per week can be easier than finding one for five, it’s suggested.
“Districts utilizing the four-day week tend to be rural and sparsely populated. Many have great distances for students to travel with long bus routes,” the manual reads. “Many also have major distances to travel to athletic events, as they participate in differing sports, conferences, and leagues. The majority of four-day districts conduct no classes on Friday.”
This does not mean that students and staff just get a day off of responsibility or work. Schedules and school days are adjusted to make sure that they get the same amount of instruction time as they do during a “normal” school week.
In some districts, a three-day weekend became a successful pitch for bringing in prospective teachers into roles that haven’t been filled. 27J schools in Adams County made the switch as a recruitment tool, and that move paid off, according to reporting from the Denver Post. Moffat County School Board members and administrators have expressed concerns about staffing shortages that are being faced across the country. As of publication, there are 39 roles at MCSD that have not been filled.
Hayden School District and Maybell Elementary both run on four-day school weeks. Two current school board candidates have expressed interest in potentially bringing that change to the Moffat County School District, Krystal Fedinec and Linsacum. Linsacum, who worked in the Hayden School District for years, was working in Hayden when that district switched to four days per week. She said that decision was mainly made to encourage teacher retention and recruitment. Teachers at that district used every other Friday for planning or for professional development.
“Teachers don’t have enough time to plan — or to collaboratively plan together,” LInsacum said. “Like, say all the sixth-grade teachers can get together and plan, and if all the teachers are off in the school, they can even do some school- or district-wide training. (They can) bring in people for training, but mostly for teachers to have time to collaborative plan with their colleagues.”
Linsacum also said that, when distributed, hours that would have been spent on instructional time on Fridays only extended school days in Hayden by about 15 minutes.
Additionally, Linsacum said, it had not hurt student learning in Hayden — though, until there was more research and planning for MCSD, it was unknown on how it would affect students in Craig. She said that difficulty finding childcare was a downside, but there are several solutions that could remedy that, such as more access to babysitters or planning and collaborating with local child care groups.
Pankow also noted that decisions like these take a lot of consideration, and the decision to move to a four-day school week will take a lot of feedback and discussion from various stakeholders over the next few months. He said that right now, “there’s no decisions, and no one’s leaning towards any way until (members of the calendar committee) all come together as a group.”
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Moffat County School District’s calendar committee is asking the community for input regarding potentially implementing a four-day school week across the district, according to a new survey released on Friday.