Districts Debate Four-Day School Week

In Limon, the superintendent estimates the school has cut costs by about 10 percent. They don't run buses on rural routes one day a week. They've cut support staff, such as cafeteria workers, on that day, and they save a small amount on energy costs, though the campus (which houses K-12) is open for activities most Fridays.

Morale and attendance are up. And there's the added bonus of being able to recruit new teachers by offering a four-day work week.

"Our salary base is not the same that you are going to find in the urban areas so we need something to recruit and bring that quality teacher out here," said Limon Superintendent Scott Vratil.

Limon's standardized test results remain above average. In fact, their overall elementary scores were the highest ever last year.

But when we asked seventh graders what they're doing with all that free time on Fridays, they confessed they're sleeping in and "hanging out," not studying.

School Boards Face Budget Crunch: Teachers and Electives on the Line

And that is why critics say the four-day week is not a solution.

At a time when President Obama says kids need more -- not less -- quality time in the classroom, many in the education field worry that a shorter week is moving in the opposite direction.

"Our concern is we are not internationally competitive and we need to be more so with regard to our educational achievement levels ... particularly for children living in poverty. And this direction is not going to make us more internationally competitive," said Jennifer Davis at the National Center on Time and Learning.

Although there is a lot of positive anecdotal evidence, very little quantifiable research has been done on the effect of a four-day school week on academic achievement.

"Policy makers are making a decision driven by economics without having a data base to look to for the impact and that is very problematic," Davis said.

But with dwindling resources, school boards face tough choices -- and cutting a day off the school week may be the lesser of two evils when teachers and elective programs are on the line.

"I am worried if we don't go to the four-day week, then we are going to have to go to make more difficult choices that do directly impact kids' education," Lere said. "The program we would look at would be art, music, PE, foreign language, and any other elective that a student might choose to take."

That's part of the reason Cherlyn Fair would love to see Pueblo 70's board change the school calendar when it meets next week.

"When it comes down to cutting our teachers, our principals, our curriculum, it's not worth losing all of that just to have an extra day of school," she said. "Let's take the risk, let's make that jump, cut the day. Save our teachers, save our curriculum, save our programs. It's a first step in the right direction."

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