Rangely officials continue to look at option of four-day school week

RANGELY I When it comes to the subject of a four-day school week, there’s more homework to do.
No decision has been made, but administrators are moving forward with studying the possibility of changing from a five-day school week to four days.
About 60 school districts in Colorado — they tend to be lower enrollment, more rural districts — have switched to a four-day school week. Most of those four-day districts take Fridays off, though some take off Mondays.
“We’re looking at the Friday option because of our sporting events,” said Rangely Superintendent Barry Williams.
More than 90 people attended a community meeting last week to learn more about what a four-day school week would look like.
“I was very pleased with the turnout,” Williams said. “That really showed a lot of interest from the community. That made me feel good.”
Another public forum will be held, probably the first week in February, Williams said.
“There are so many components you have to take into account,” Williams said. “This wasn’t something I wanted to say we’re going to do, but I wanted to have teacher, student, community and parent input. The more people who take ownership …”
Questionnaires have been mailed to parents of Rangely students asking for their input on the four-day school week and if they would support such a change.
Williams stressed that the consideration of switching to a four-day school week wasn’t for budget reasons, though there may be a financial benefit.
The district projects a budget savings of 2 percent to 9 percent of the total operating costs could be realized by switching to a four-day school week.
“What it is … we will improve achievement, according to the research,” Williams said. “It will improve attendance, it’s more environmentally friendly, student morale improves … and a four-day school week is very attractive to teachers.”
Under a four-day school week, Williams said the school day would be increased from 40 to 60 minutes.
“The intensity of the instruction … you have a longer time for instruction to be delivered,” Williams said. “Teachers can have more time built into their instructional design.”
Teachers would spend one and a half Fridays a month on professional development, under the four-day school week. That would be a time when, Williams said, “Teachers can talk with one another, share ideas to help students become more effective learners … for effective learning to go on, you have to have strong instructional strategies delivered by the teachers.”
As far as providing activities on Fridays for students whose parents work, it was suggested other community groups such as the recreation district or Giant Step Preschool and Child Care may have to play a role.
“The topic was brought up,” said Tim Webber, director of the Western Rio Blanco Recreation and Park District. “We could do some extra programming, but there will be a cost associated with the extra programming on Fridays. This would be another day where folks would probably be creative with what they are doing with their children, or they would be left with no other option other than having their kids be at home alone, or whatever they can come up with.”
Added Kari Way, director of Giant Step, “That is something I could definitely work on for the kids. Because I’m non-profit, I can look for and apply for different grants to help with the four-day school week. I don’t think we’d get many extra kids (on Fridays) — we have the same ones in the summer that we have when there’s no school or a teacher in-service day. I think people use a lot of family and friends, though they need to make sure they are not using unlicensed (more than one family being cared for at a time) homes.”
The ultimate reason for switching to a four-day school week, Williams said, should be student achievement.
“It was never suggested to change from a five- to a four-day week to save money,” Williams said. “It has nothing to do with budget or hidden agendas. It’s all focused on instruction. It’s about educating students. The more intense the instruction is, the more our kids are going to achieve.”
Williams said a number of other school districts in Colorado that have switched to a four-day week were contacted as part of the administrative team’s research, including Big Sandy, North Park, Park County, West Grand and Hayden.
“In those districts, some test scores came up, some stayed the same, but none went down,” Williams said.
That’s what sold Rangely resident Rodger Polley on the four-day school week.
“I hope … what they are selling me on is that our test scores are going to go up,” Polley said. “If that’s true, then great.”
Initially, Polley said he was opposed to the idea of a four-day school week. But the school district’s presentation last week at the public forum swayed him.
“Yeah, it did,” Polley said. “I’m going to be supportive of what they’re trying to do. I’ll go with what the professionals have to say about it as far as teaching the kids, if we get the results. If this is just another latest, greatest educational thing we can do and we’re just trying it to try it, but we don’t succeed with it, it’s worthless. We have to see some kind of results.”
Of the school district’s presentation on the four-day school week, Polley said, “They had a lot of good points. Ninety-eight percent of all the school systems in Colorado that have went to a four-day school week, other than Meeker, have loved it and stayed with it.”
The Meeker School District went to a four-day school week in 1991, but switched back to a five-day week in 1995.
Williams said from what he’s heard, including from the Parent Advisory Committee, there is support for the four-day school week.
“Everything I’m getting is pro, but some parents are saying show me more stuff,” Williams said. “The teachers that I have spoken with, they are for it, but I haven’t talked to every teacher.”