It's a school day for most of the country, but not for Mei Mei Pollit, a fourth-grader who spends her Fridays on the ski slopes.
"It's awesome, you get an extra day off," she said. "You have a three-day weekend and I think that's pretty cool."
Mei Mei attends school in Granby, which instituted a four-day school week, primarily as a cost-cutting measure. According to school Superintendent Robb Rankin, the school has shaved 20 percent off its budget for transportation, food service, custodial care and even utilities — which can be significant during the Colorado winter. Overall, savings in an average year are said to top $200,000.
Colorado is one of seven states experimenting with a four-day school week. A half-dozen other states are considering it as a way to save money.
What Granby schools have not done is cut back on academics, as classes are longer and each day has an extra period. "The school day at East Granby Middle School, and in the whole district, is 8:15 [a.m.] to 4:15 [p.m.] for the students, so it's a long day," said Nancy Karas, the school's principal.
The compressed school week means students must be more focused, according to reading teacher Marilyn Findlay. "They learn as a discipline," she said. "I have 'X' number of hours to get this work done and be successful and a happy person at the same time."
School’s Report Card Shows Results
A recent report card issued by the Colorado governor's office shows that kids attending the four-day schools do just as well academically as those who attend five-day schools.
There are also fewer absences. Sporting events are scheduled for Fridays, so athletes don't miss class, and principal Karas points out that "the parents tend not to pull their kids out of school during the school week because they do have Fridays to take care of those family business issues … whether it's an orthodontist or a doctor."
Maxine Landa, who has two children in Granby's public schools, said she occasionally worries that the longer days can be draining on the students. But she and her husband — like the majority of parents in the district — have come to value their family's three-day weekends.
"It gives you a chance to spend one more whole day with your children and at their ages, they're able to work, which gives them another day to get a job, buy the things they need, like expensive CDs," said Ed Landa.
And there's another hidden benefit, according to Rankin, the superintendent. "Goofing around? Just doesn't happen. Our kids don't have a lot of time on that Monday through Thursday to get into trouble."