MSD Board votes for four-day school week

MEEKER I Come the fall of this year, Meeker School District (MSD) RE-1 will join Rifle, Rangely and at least 80 other Colorado school districts in adopting a four-day school week.
New board member Tom Allen reluctantly put forward a motion for the short school week and Bud Ridings said he reluctantly seconded the motion. On the second try, the board voted 4-3 to make the change. Bill deVergie and Marnell Bradfield joined Allen and Ridings in voting for the proposal with Mindy Burke, Kurt Blunt and Todd Shults voting against.
No new estimates for cost savings were given during the discussion, but MSD Superintendent Mark Meyer said he still thought the best estimate for cost savings would be $70,000 per year.
The first time the four-day week came up during the meeting, it did not get a second and almost died. However, the board came back to the motion after some discussion and a plea from Meyer to make a decision either way the board voted.
In response to questions from board members, Meyer said that almost certainly the short day on Wednesday would be done away with and most school districts have elected to skip Friday instead of Monday. The length of the school day and what day will be skipped will be decided later by the MSD calendar committee.
A study done on the four-day school week by Eastern New Mexico University found that 12 Colorado districts in the 1980s showed some gains and some losses and no clear evidence that student achievement suffered.
One study for rural districts in New York concluded that “the math behind a four-day week remains fuzzy.” Most studies, including some national studies, don’t show clear trends in academic achievement or cost savings.
A 2006 Colorado Department of Education (CDE) report came to similar conclusions, but highlighted non-academic and non-fiscal benefits, such as more community and family time. The biggest disadvantage identified by studies was the longer school day, especially for the elementary grades. Most school districts have extended the school day from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“Student attendance will become more important with the four-day week,” said board member Marnell Bradfield. MSD currently has 1,061 hours of instruction at the elementary level, 1,115 at the middle school level and 1,127 at the high school level per year, Meyer said, adding that the calendar committee will determine how to achieve a similar number of instructional hours in four days.
Board member Tom Allen was a teacher in the district when there was a four-day school week and he said that one of the unexpected benefits was the longer individual class times. Other board members brought up avoiding travel for sports cutting into class time and potential negative local business impacts due to the longer weekend.
Board member Kurt Blunt was concerned about impacts to working parents that would have to look for daycare. He thought this could, “impact the folks that are least able to cope with it.”
Two members of the public spoke against the proposal Tuesday night; one was a student who was concerned about the effectiveness of having longer school days and a parent who wondered if the savings will be worth it.
Since no public statement about the four-day week was made before Tuesday’s MSD board meeting, Allen said he was worried about remaining transparent in fiscal decisions.
The MSD board voted to have another public meeting to talk about budget issues on May 8 at 6 p.m. in the Meeker High School Auditorium. The proposal to change the school week from five to four days is due to the Colorado Department of Education by May 9.