Colorado school switches to a four-day week – both teachers and students love it

The teachers of Colorado’s 27J Schools are the lowest paid in the Denver metro area, despite several attempts at raising taxes in order to fund higher salaries. Because of this, the Adams County school district struggles to attract and retain quality educators. In an effort to make the job more appealing, school administrators have invented a creative solution: switch to a four-day school week.

“We weren’t going to compete in the current system,” said 27J Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Fiedler to NBC News. “You just can’t be dead last in funding, last in starting teacher salaries, last in average teacher pay and expect you’ll attract the best folks.”

Like many other states, Colorado’s minimum instructional requirements for public schools are regulated by the hours spent in the classroom, not by counting days. This means that the 27J Schools are able to cut a day from the school week by simply extending the length of the other four days.

Under the new school schedule, Mondays have been dropped – which is good because nobody likes Mondays anyways. The days for elementary school have been extended by 40 minutes, while the high school days last 8 hours.

“Unlike Friday, Monday is a day for kids and teachers to prepare for the week,” Fiedler said.

Instead of going to school on Monday, kids can now play, rest, study, work, volunteer, or participate in extracurricular activities.

According to NBC News, Emma Cable, a junior at Eagle Ridge Academy, goes to volleyball practice and volunteers with a seeing-eye dog organization. Another student, Isabelle Jaramillo, a third grader at Northeast Elementary, spends hers at her local Boys & Girls Club. And a junior at Prairie View High, Zach Felker, picks up extra shifts at Buffalo Wild Wings in order to save money for college.

As for the teachers, they use can now use the three-day weekends to not only relax, but also prepare for the week ahead.

“It was attractive to me because I was essentially working that long of a day in DPS anyway. Here, I could just do it four days week. It’s been amazing for my personal life, and I love that I have more time to actually plan lessons on Monday and get everything ready for the week,” Ally Hyatt, who works as a seventh-grade science teacher for Vikan Middle School, told NBC.

Both students and teachers love the new, revised schedule, however, some parents aren’t happy with it.

One single mom of three, Jessica Lore, who works full-time for a sales company stated, “I don’t like it one bit, and I feel like the district didn’t take seriously my worries about child care.”

Another man, Brody Matthews said both he and his wife are looking forward to a work-related move out of the 27J district. “I’ll be relieved that they’ll be back on a five-day schedule. It’s what pretty much every human on Earth works or goes to school for.”

27J is comprised of 28 schools with about 18,000 students, making it the largest school district to implement a four-day week. Despite some parents’ unhappiness, at the end of the first year, Fiedler has reported positive results. Jobs that once attracted a meager number of applicants are now receiving more than 100 applications – and the quality of candidates has vastly improved as well, with many more of the applicants holding masters degrees and ESL certifications. As a result, the turnover rate as dropped from 21% to 13%.

Administrators at the 27J Schools have mandatory professional development two Monday mornings per month, while teachers only have one. Students have also been provided with both Chromebook laptops and a digital curriculum in order to still feel connected to their classroom on their days off. The district has also made efforts to expand day care offerings for parents of young children. One option offers all-day care on Mondays for $30, while the Shopneck Boys & Girls Club in Brighton offers free childcare for families who can’t afford it.

Despite all the positivity surrounding the changes, it’s still a little to early to call the four-day school week a runaway success as state test results and official graduation rates won’t be in until autumn.

In the past, some rural school districts that have implemented a four-day week, ended up yielding contradictory results. A 2015 study showed improved academic performance, but a 2017 study found a decline in academic performance, while a 2018 study found juvenile crime jumped up 20%. However, Brighton police told NBC that they noticed no such spike since 27J rolled out the new schedule.

Fielder has recommended the four-day school week for other school districts that are resource-strapped and struggling to attract quality teachers. However, he emphasized that it’s paramount to pay educators a fair salary.

“If you have the money, you should pay your teachers,” Fiedler said. “But for us, it’s a significant differentiating factor that makes us really competitive.”

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