School District 27J, located northeast of Denver, announced that it is implementing a four-day school week for the 2018-2019 school year, joining nearly 100 districts around the state that are operating a similar schedule.
The district announced the change this week, but first needs plan approval by the Colorado Commissioner of Education. Still, the district expressed optimism, as no district requesting permission has been turned down.
A study released last August by the Colorado Department of Education revealed that 98 districts, amounting to 55 percent of districts in the state, were operating on a four-day school week schedule during the current school year. That number has steadily climbed since the option was first made available in 1980.
Starting this August, regular education days at 27J will be increased from six hours to 7.5 hours, so it will fulfill state requirements for instructional time, and no classes will be held on Mondays. Parents will be offered childcare services on Mondays from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at a rate of $30 per child, per day. The district’s charter schools were given the option to move to a four-day week, but only one made the switch.
The shrinking school week contrasted with resources being invested into the district’s transportation department near the beginning of this year. In January, 11 new school buses were delivered. They were purchased as part of the district’s bus replacement program to assist with routes to a new high school opening this fall. The same month, a $1,000 donation went toward the purchase of training manikins used in CPR training classes for transportation staff.
The DOE study also found that district student transportation costs can be reduced by about 20 percent on a four-day school week plan.
“The capital, insurance, maintenance, and administrative costs remain relatively constant. Fuel, oil, salaries, and supervisory costs can be reduced. Transportation employees will have a reduction in net pay,” the study stated.
27J Schools said the primary reason for the change was financial. It expects to save between $1 million and $2 mllion in the first year of implementation, primarily due to reduced transportation, substitute and utility costs.
“(The district) must be increasingly strategic in allocating our resources (including our use of time) to the priorities that matter the most for our students and their learning,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Fiedler.
The district said it has also been struggling to recruit and retain teachers. It now plans to use the shortened work week as an incentive. The day off on Monday will also allow teachers time to prepare for classroom instruction.
“Over the course of the last several years, teachers in 27J have faced an increased workload, with larger class sizes and less time for professional development. The four-day week, with longer teacher contract days, provides adequate time for teachers to plan, to collaborate, and to learn,” said Kathey Ruybal, president of the Brighton Education Association.
Public Information Officer Tracy Rudnick confirmed for STN that the district is frequently short school bus drivers as well. “We‘re always actively recruiting,” she said.
She added that plans are still being developed for handling transportation staff hours and pay due to the restructuring of the school week.