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So far, so good for Rangely’s four-day school experiment
RANGELY I The school day is longer, the week is shorter and absences are down.
An early report card on the four-day school week would give the district a passing grade.
“You know, we’re very pleased with it so far,” said Berry Swenson, the first-year principal at the combined Rangely Junior/Senior High. “I have not heard any negatives (from parents), other than having a hard time finding medical practitioners, especially orthodontists, who work on Fridays. That’s been the one major complaint. Other than that, we’ve not had any.”
The Rangely School Board voted in April to switch to a four-day school week.
“It’s going very well,” said Adair Norman, president of the school board. “The preparation staff did before school started is paying off. I think there have been a few bumps and probably some more to come, but they seem to be easily working through them. Students, parents and staff have all made the effort to make it work well. The students and teachers are missing less class time for extracurricular activities while teachers are getting more time for purposeful collaboration, which were points of emphasis. I have not heard much in the way of negative feedback. That said, we are still a couple of months from being able to assess our main goal of increasing student achievement. When that time comes we will have a more definitive answer.”
Under the new schedule, students attend school Monday through Thursday, with the school day being about 30 minutes longer than in the past. Classes at the junior/senior high start at 7:45 a.m. and end at 3:34 p.m. Classes go from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Parkview Elementary.
There are no classes at either school on Friday. However, teachers use the day for staff training and collaboration.
“I absolutely love the professional development time on Fridays,” said Mary Lansing, principal at Parkview Elementary, who will retire at the end of the school year. “It is incredibly useful. We have been able to do things that otherwise would have caused us to have sub teachers in classrooms or not accomplish them at all, because they get put on hold because there’s no time.
“(Friday) is an in-service day that is a day for training and professional development, which is typically orchestrated by the needs of the building,” Lansing said.
School administrators also get together on Fridays.
“We have administrative meetings on Fridays, not all, but as many as our administrative meetings as we can, we do on Fridays,” Lansing said. “But (school) administration is in (the office) every Friday, depending on what we have going on.”
In addition, Fridays are available for students who are having discipline problems or need to do catchup work to come to school.
“Students seem to like it,” Swenson said of the four-day school week. “For discipline and academic remediation, Friday is working very well, so we’re pleased with that. They can come in on Friday and have a certified teacher there who helps them get caught up or understand a topic in more detail.”
As far as teachers being on duty on Fridays, Swenson said, “They volunteer to be there, or we solicit certain content area teachers as needed, and we pay them for their time.”
One noticeable change with the four-day school week has been improved student attendance.
“Right now, attendance is holding at just under 95 percent, which is pretty dramatic over last year (89.5 percent),” Swenson said.
As far as academic performance, which will be the ultimate measure of the four-day school week, results of CSAP (Colorado Student Assessment Program) testing will show if Rangely student scores are improving.
“We won’t have our first academic measure until the winter,” Swenson said. “That will predict our success on CSAP. CSAP is a very good test, as far as the items they test. But the problem is we don’t get (results) back for five months. So we don’t find out until August how the kids did in March. That’s why we do the MAPS as well.”
The MAPS “are given three times per year and are closely aligned to CSAP,” Swenson said. “We use them to monitor the effectiveness of our instruction. This gives us the opportunity to correct any academic deficiency we identify in our students.”
Students have responded well to the four-day school week, said Parkview Principal Lansing.
“The students seem to be more eager,” she said. “I think it’s because they don’t get as tired, and negative behavior is definitely down. Our Thursdays have not turned into our Fridays (when students typically showed signs of fatigue).
“(The length of the school day) is really only a half hour longer, but it just seems like we’re able to fit so much more in,” Lansing said. “I think it’s giving us more opportunities for scheduling, and it gives us more flexibility with our schedule.”
Senior high student council co-presidents Victoria Phelan and Torie Slagle like the four-day school week.
“I’m pretty sure everyone loves it,” Phelan said. “I haven’t heard anything bad about it. It makes it so much easier not to miss class for sports, and it’s nice to have an extra day off to do homework. So I really like it.”
Both Phelan and Slagle are involved in sports, and oftentimes during the school year there are athletic events scheduled for Fridays.
“I really hated missing class for sports,” Slagle said. “I like that I don’t have to miss class anymore, and it gives us Fridays to work on stucco (student council) stuff and not have to find time on weekends.
“It takes the stress off the rest of the week,” Slagle said. “I really hated missing class for sports, and I like that I don’t have to miss class anymore staying caught up. I really like it (the four-day school week). The only thing is sometimes Mondays are harder to get back into the rhythm because of the longer weekends.”
But, Phelan added, even teachers seem to like the four-day school week.
“Especially the teachers,” Phelan said. “They are like way happier. I think it’s a lot less stressful. They have more time to get grades in and stuff.”
Heidi Russell, who has a sixth-grader and a ninth-grader in the school system, has changed her opinion of the four-day school week.
“I was a little bit on the fence before,” she said. “I could see the good and the bad. I thought it was good they wouldn’t miss school for sports activities on Fridays, but I was concerned if they would have time for homework. But, you know what, it’s been pretty good.
“As long as it works for the kids,” Russell said. “I’m sure there are some people who maybe don’t like it, but I haven’t heard anything negative.”
Kathryn Lopez, who is president of the Parkview PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) and has a daughter in fifth grade, has also changed her mind about the four-day school week.
“I was very, very, very against it,” Lopez said. “I did everything I could to possibly stop it. I was so against it … because it was change. I just didn’t think they would be able to fit the learning into (four days).”
But Lopez has become a fan of the shorter school week.
“I think it’s going great,” Lopez said. “And my daughter loves it. People were worried, but I have heard very good things from the community. It’s working out, and they love the three-day weekends.
“I also coach the youth rec volleyball, but we have plenty of time to play volleyball, get homework done and we still get to bed on time,” Lopez said. “All of the things I thought were going to be negative, it’s worked out so nice.”