MEEKER I It’s been a few years since the Meeker School District, in response to a financial crunch at the time, opted to switch from the traditional five-day week to a four-day week. As of this year, 58 percent of Colorado districts use the four-day plan, including some of the larger districts on the Front Range.
Going into its fourth year in Meeker, the greatest fears and concerns expressed at the time appear to be largely unfounded.
“Every metric one would use to rate the quality of a school has risen in the Meeker School District following the transition to a four-day week. We have been Accredited with Distinction by the state for three years in a row. Our district never earned this honor on a five-day week. Participation numbers in co-curricular and extracurricular programs are higher than they have been in several years with a continued achievement of excellence in these programs. Student enrollment has grown steadily in the past four years and staff turnover has declined. Student attendance improved dramatically following the change to a four-day week. Our most recent graduation and dropout rates were calculated at 100 percent and 0 percent, respectively,” said Superintendent Chris Selle via email, adding, “While the school district is not positioned to analyze the impact a four-day week may have on the local economy, there is strong factual evidence to support the claim that a four-day week is better for students in a rural community.”
Nationwide, studies indicate four-day programs produce similar results on assessments and academic growth as districts with five-day programs.
An informal online poll/survey shared by the Herald Times over the weekend demonstrated strong support for the four-day week, with 85 percent of respondents saying they prefer the 4-day week. That lines up with a report from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) released in July, which states, “Satisfaction surveys indicate that 80-90 percent of community members favor continuing the four-day week in districts which have been on the schedule for several years. The opposition seems to come from members of the community not directly associated with the school, and from those who feel that school employees should work a traditional week.” The report also stated, “As with everything in education, opinions are strong and feelings run high.”
The majority of respondents were parents, followed by educators, whose preferences for the four-day week include improved academics, having a weekday open for appointments without having to pull kids out of school, more family time, fewer absences, more time for teacher planning and professional development, less instructional time lost to extracurricular activities and less burnout for students and teachers. Cost savings for the district were mentioned infrequently.
Former Rio Blanco County IT director Blake Mobley recently returned to the educational sector as the Rangely School District’s IT director. Mobley said via email he “highly values the four-day week” for a number of reasons, stating “the four-day week was the number one reason I elected to return to the educational sector of employment.”
Comments received in support of a five-day week included shorter school days and shorter school years, kids getting in trouble without supervision on Fridays, lack of daycare options for working parents, students who rely on school meals may go hungry on Friday, students in sports other than football still miss classes during the week, better preparation for a five-day work week in the future, and families may be less likely to leave town for the weekend which may help local businesses.
“Research related to the impact of a four-day school week on the local economy is almost non-existent,” according to a 2018 study titled “The Economics of a Four-Day School Week: Community and Business Leader’s Perspectives” in “Applied Economics and Finance.” (http://redfame.com/journal/index.php/aef/article/view/2947/3229) According to the report, community and business leaders are evenly divided in their opinions of the economic impact on their businesses and the community.
By NIKI TURNER