A school district of nearly 18,000 students in Colorado is switching to a four-day week as the 2018-2019 school year begins.
Students in District 27J will no longer attend school on Mondays, saving the district about $1 million a year on busing, teacher salaries, and utilities, according to National Public Radio. The Tuesday-Friday school days will be extended by 40 minutes.
The district, northeast of Denver, is the 98th in Colorado approved by the state department of education to switch to a four-day week. The move came after multiple failed attempts to raise money through bond votes. "Our district can no longer be expected to do more with less financial resources," Superintendent Chris Fiedler said in a statement.
With students back at their desks in some parts of the country, the minds of many school leaders are on how, as the Colorado superintendent put it, to keep doing more with less. Four-day weeks are gaining traction across the country as a way to keep fully serving students while meeting budgets. But a reduced schedule can also help entice teachers to a school. Research based on small and rural districts, at least, as well as anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that teachers feel more time off compensates for lower salaries, and might even reinvigorate their teaching.
School leaders should be aware of the potential downsides, though: longer days can wear on younger students or students with special needs, and the need for child care on their child's "day off" can put some parents in a bind. (The Colorado district is offering child care on Mondays, at a cost of $30 per child, per Monday.)
An alternative to giving students a day off might be to turn one in-school day into an e-learning day at home. Some districts are already floating that idea as way to make snow days productive. Districts would still save on transportation — indeed, busing accounted for the lion's share of the savings in the Colorado district — and utility costs. Potential pitfalls include the effect on students whose learning style doesn't jibe with independent e-assignments and the challenge of ensuring access to Wi-Fi in all students' homes (though lending of hotspots might be a workaround there.) And, of course, home e-learning days still do nothing to help the child care situation for parents. The Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington offers a user’s guide full of helpful guidelines and advice to help district leaders figure out if and how to implement a four-day school week.