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Now that School District 27J has approved a new change in scheduling, moving the school week to four days instead of the regular five, district officials and teachers are getting ready for the new schedule’s debut in August.
School District Public Information Officer Tracy Rudnick said the change was spurred by school officials coming up with ways to help the teachers have more time to plan their lessons and feel better taken care of by the district.
“The No. 1 reason for us was to attract and retain quality teachers,” Rudnick said. “We are one of the lowest-funded districts in the Denver Metro area and the state of Colorado. We had to think outside the box on how to keep our great teachers. This gives them more time in the day and the week.”
The district includes portions of Adams, Broomfield and Weld counties. That extends to a small portion of eastern Thornton.
Longer days, fewer buses
Students in all of the schools of the district will attend classes from Tuesday through Friday. However, the new schedule is not eliminating any time that students have in classes with their teachers, Rudnick said.
During the four-day school week, each day will be extended by 40 minutes, while the professional development days and early-release days usually peppered throughout the year will be eliminated.
This means that the schedule will be more consistent for parents, students and teachers, as all students will be in class from beginning to end Tuesday through Friday throughout the year, Rudnick said.
The teachers will have time added in the beginning and end of their days throughout the week to plan and prepare for upcoming classes and work on professional development initiatives.
For a school district already battling its lower state funding, going to a four-day school week will also help save close to $1 million in the first year, Rudnick said, with those savings coming from one less day of bus transportation, food and cafeteria services and even electricity to the buildings.
Rudnick said the response from parents has been mixed, with some loving the change. It provides at least one free day with their children to schedule doctor’s appointments as well as things to do with their children during a day in which all businesses are open.
However, some households in which all parents work during the day, had concerns about what to do with their children during Monday.
“The loudest complaint was child care. The decision we came to was to expand our child care programs in the school district to provide that need,” she said. “It will cost $30 per day and scholarships for children are being offered. At this point, we have over 700 children registered.”
Rudnick also said different programs are starting to offer students the chance to engage in community and educational activities on the free day. Some of these programs are already being discussed and set up with organizations and municipalities include recreation center programs, museum tours, field trips and even a preparation day especially for high school students that would help them prepare for college and the professional workplace.
All of those programs are still being fleshed out, but the school district will have a better handle on the different aspects of the programs before the official start to the 2018-19 school year.
In making the big change, the school district also has changed the start time for middle school and high school students. While elementary school students will be in school from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., middle school and high school students will start at 8:30 a.m. and be out of school at 4:32 p.m.
“Our research into this told us that middle school and high school students need a little bit of additional rest,” she said. “They stay up later - it’s just how their brains work and we wanted to provide a later start time for them.”
The four-day school week will be an adjustment that parents, students and teachers need to make, but Rudnick said a lot of time, thought and discussion has gone into the decision, and she said the transition should go rather smoothly.
“All of us grew up with a five-day school week,” she said. “It will be an adjustment, but we knew that the No. 1 thing to accomplish here was to give the teachers the time they need to prepare their curriculum. That will help serve the students and provide them with the high-quality teachers they need.”
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