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March 28, 2012     The Adams County Record
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The Adams County Record Wednesday. March 28, 2012 The Four-day School Week byDaleFisk The Council School District, with the help of a group of local volunteers, is starting to investigate the possibility of going to a four-day week. For the present, this is just a fact-gathering process; there is no imminent decision pending. This article is meant to inform the public of the various factors that will influence such a decision. The school board will not make a decision on a four-day week without getting input from the community and holding public meetings. Anyone who wants to participate in gathering information and discussing the idea of a four-day week can attend the group meetings that have begun on a regular basis to address this, and other, school issues. The next meeting is Monday, April 2 at 6:00 PM at the high school library. Another meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 4 at the same time and place. The follong is mostly taken directly from the Idaho Dept. of Education web site, with a few notes added. Who is doing it? The practice of structuring a school district schedule around four days instead of five is' typically in response to dwindling financial resources and declining enrollment--both of which are occurring at Council. It is typically utilized by small, rural school districts as an alternative to cutting programs. The practice first started in New Mexico in the early 1970s in response to an energy crisis, which sharply increased transportation and utility costs. The National School Board Association currently estimates that about 100 districts in as many as 17 states are operating on a 4-Day school week. Here is a list of 63 Idaho four-day-week schools for 2008-2009 (District, followed by the number of schools): Marsh VaUey-7; Bear Lake County-6; Boundary County-7, Grace-3; North Gem-2; Soda Springs-6; Clark County-3; Orofino-8; Challis-5; Mackey-2; . Salmon-6; Oneida County-4; Three Creek Elementary- I; Pleasant Valley Elementary School District- 1 ; Blackfoot Charter School- 1; Upper Carmen Charter School- 1. Since 2009 several other schools have gone to four-day weeks, including Cambridge, Horseshoe Bend and Garden Valley. The largest school district in Idaho functioning on a 4-day school week is Boundary County with 1,634 students. The smallest is Three Creek Joint Elementary School District with 4 students in grades K-8. Which day off?. Most schools that have adopted a 4-Day School Week take either Friday or Monday off. All of the Idaho schools using this schedule take Friday off. In other states, many districts choose to operate Tuesday through Friday. Supporters of taking Friday off claim that it is best because so many students already miss Fridays due to athletic events and other activities on this day. Supporters of Mondays off claim that gymnasiums and schools often have to be lit and heated for. Friday athletic events and activities, whereas few such events occur on Mondays, so there are little if any energy savings with Fridays off. State requirements Idaho law requires school districts to adopt a school calendar that provides its students at each grade level with the following number of instructional hours: Grades 9-12:990 hours Grades 4-8:900 hours : Grades 1-3:810 hours Kindergarten: 450 hours School districts operating on a traditional five-day school week may schedule six-hour days for 165 school days to reach the total instructional hours of 990. A school district operating on a 4-Day School Week may achieve those hours by scheduling seven-hour days for 142 school days, decreasing the total number of school days by 23 days. Cost savings? Districts typically report a cost savings after transferring to a 4-Day School Week but also report that the savings are not substantial. Most cost savings come as a result of decreased work schedules for Classified Staff who work on an hourly basis. Transportation: It has been reported that transportation costs can be reduced by about 20%. To realize these savings, a district must severely restrict or eliminate transportation for activities or programs on non-school days. Savings come from fuel, oil, salaries, and school bus drivers. Capital, insurance, maintenance and administrative costs remain consistent. In Idaho, these savings would not result in total net savings in the overall budget due to Idaho law, which reimburses districts up to 85% of their transportation costs. Food Service Programs: If districts are subsidizing the food service program from the general fund, a 20% savings has been reported. Certain fixed costs are not reduced. Utilities: If buildings are actually closed and placed on weekend cycle, a savings can be realized. However, common practice is for buildings to be open for extra activities and for staff use. Council's schools are already saving a significant amount on heating and cooling from the biomass plant, so energy savings here would not amount to much. Staff: Teachers and administrators typically receive the same annual salary. Savings reported usually can be attributed to reduction in hours worked for hourly employees tied directly to the school day, such as aids, paraprofessionals and bus drivers. Districts often see significant savings from a decrease in the need for substitute teachers due to better staff attendance. Fall Enrollment vs. Average Daily Attendance: While many districts make the transition to a 4-Day Week due to declining enrollment, many districts have reported that, with the 4-day program, the gap between Fall Enrollment numbers and Average Daily Attendance has shrunk, resulting in more funding from the state than in previous years. This is a result of improved student attendance. A review of Idaho's 4-Day school week distnJcts and charters does show this to be the case in many instances. Cambridge has seen an increase in Average Daily Attendance. Bottom line: Superintendent Dalgleish has said that cost savings would not be a very big part of the decision for Council. Calculating all the factors, it has been estimated that Council schools would save approximately $10,000 to $12,000 per year by going to a four-day week. This is out of a $1.6 million budget. Horseshoe Bend saved nearly $70,000 in their first year on a 4-day schedule. Student Achievement There is little research available on the practice of a 4-Day school week and its affects on student achievement. Many districts report an increase in actual instructional time due to less interference from athletics, doctor and dentist appointments. Teachers must make adjustments to instructional practices and timelines to make this happen. Concerns have been expressed by some that certain students in need of more frequent reinforcement have trouble with continuity of learning with the three- day weekend, : . , i There is a lack of evidence that the 4-Day school week helps or hurts student achievement. In reviewing Idaho's ISAT and IRI test results, it appears that students who attend a 4-Day school do not do any worse or any better than their peers in most instances. Definitive results are nearly impossible due to the number of variables involved. One possible trend shows that a transition to a 4-Day week seems to affect early elementary students more than junior high and high school students. Advantages Most districts make the transition to a 4-Day School Week for financial reasons but soon recognize other advantages and benefits that they did not anticipate: Student dropout rates decline. Student disciplinary referrals decrease. Student achievement is generally not affected either positively or negatively. Student and teacher attendance improves. Cambridge Superintendent Ed Schumacher feels student achievement has increased there, and that the kids seem more willing to go right to work in the morning, which has reduced disruptions and conflict between kids. Students and teachers benefit from less interrupted class time as a result of longer class periods and fewer transitions at all grade levels. This increases the efficiency of instruction. (Council is already using long class periods.) Students and teachers share more positive attitudes about school. Consequently, there is a marked improvement in school morale. Schools sometimes have significant savings on utility biffs, substitute teacher pay, school buses, and building wear and tear. School faculty has more time for quality staff development (often the day off is used for this purpose). There is more time for participation in extracurricular activitte agld, for personal business, such as doctor appointments. Schools often cite the extra "off day" as one of the biggest pluses of a four-day week. The student body can make up school days missed due to inclement weather on what would have been the Fifth school day instead of at the end of the school year. A Cambridge student who missed two N days of school because of illness was able to make up both days on one Friday with one-on- one help from a teacher. Remediation for students who get behind works similarly. Cambridge doesn't require students to come in on Fridays; it's voluntary. They have settled on a schedule of having teachers available to students on one full Friday a month and one half day Friday per month. Schools experience fewer distractions; learning is broken up less by athletic events or other school activies. Concerns Some of the concerns associated with the 4-Day school week include: Child care issues: While some parents llke the 4-day week because they prefer having to find good child care one day a week, others dislike it for the same reason and prefer to arrange for child care in smaller increments of time. Some schools have alleviated this concern by using high school students as baby-sitters for those in need. the longer days of a 4-Day school week has actually been cited as a solution to the "latchkey" issue. Primary-age students: There is often concern as to how young students will respond to such a long school day. As a result, many schools structure the day so the afternoon is composed of less academic work than the morning, thus allowing students to have some "down time." Cambridge Elementary kids start classes at 8:00 AM, they eat breakfast about 9:00 or 9:30, have a moming recess, lunch period and an afternoon recess. Superintendent Ed Schumacher says those students don't seem more tired. He said, ''hose kids run out of the building at the end Page 9 movement: Some educators are concerned that the 4-day school week may appear to be inconsistent with the new emphasis for more time in school. The 4-Day school week will take more of the local community commitment than other schedule options as it can affect daily community routines. One size does not fit all While a 4-Day School Week may appear to be effective in one district, it does not guarantee that it will be effective in all districts. It is important to spend extensive time studying the issue and seeking community feedback before making the decision. Visit an existing 4-Day School Week District as part of your research. Survey your staff. If they are not in favor, it will be difficult to implement. Survey parents and take public comment. Analyze possible financial gains as well as the possible negative financial impact it may have on your community. Make sure scheduling changes keep you in compliance "with accreditation guidelines and teacher contract requirements. Consider that the change may cause your district to restructure and or replace curriculum. The following questions should be considered: Is a 4-Day week educationally sound for all students and for all groups of students, including young children, those with special needs and at-risk students? Do the benefits of implementing a new calendar offset the disadvantages? How will you know? How can a calendar change be used to continue progress in raising student achievement and closing gaps? Can the reallocation of savings support new N of the .!day .J1.s.t ::llke: they ,'., or! reorganized activities used to." Cambridge High School students start and end their day at about the same time as the elementary, have 7 periods of 60 minutes each, and a 30-minute lunch break. Schumacher says the high school kids get hungry by the end of the day and need a snack. School reform Economy Roofing & Building Supply to better address student educational needs? There is a multitude of issues that need to be considered when thinking about adopting a four- day school week. But Superintendent Dalgleish says most of the schools that he has talked to who have made the switch would not go back to five days. Celebrating 29 years in Council 15% off Everything in store Cash or Check "10% off Charge or Card Excluding Lumber No backorders No rainchecks Look for Special Tag Throughout Store 25% off Cash 20% of Charge or Card This Thursday, Friday, Saturday ONLY 8am- 5:30pm 304 S. Exeter, Council 208-253-4501  i. ......