The Hayden School Board on Wed--nesday voted 3-2 to implement a four-day week for students for part of the 2005-06 school year.
The decision came after a lengthy discussion with parents and teachers about whether the schedule was the best way to provide teachers more collaborative time and to improve student achievement.
The approved school calendar will give students 14 Fridays off between Thanksgiving and spring break. Teachers will work together at least a half-day on those Fridays to strengthen curriculum and teaching strategies.
The schedule would add about 33 minutes to school days throughout the school year but would not extend the school calendar.
School Board members Patty Bruchez and Jody Camilletti voted against the calendar and argued that the board should consider other options, including starting school a week earlier and providing more Fridays off for students throughout the school year.
"There has to be a compromise here," Camilletti said.
Bruchez and Camilletti's concerns echoed the opinions of several parents who worried students would suffer academically from the longer schools days and less time with teachers.
"I don't think this is the right way to go -- to lose these days of student-teacher interaction," said Bob Young, who urged the board to reject or table the proposal.
Young and parent Ann Ormesher said the lack of research confirming positive or negative academic effects of four-day weeks on students made the proposal too risky.
"My kids aren't lab rats," Ormesher said. "I'm not willing to take that gamble."
The four-day school week has been discussed at several School Board meetings and work sessions. About 50 parents attended the last work session April 5.
The board and administrators emphasized that a decision about the calendar had to be made Wednesday to allow Hayden High School staff to plan 2005-06 class and athletic schedules.
The possibility of a four-day week initially was introduced as a way to save money. However, the plan will save the district a maximum of $20,000 and now is being considered more as a way of providing teachers more planning time.
Collaboration is a key element of Professional Learning Communities, a progressive ap----proach to education that encourages teachers to work together in evaluating curriculums and developing student achievement goals and intervention plans.
Finding time to meet has been a particular challenge at Hayden middle and high schools.
High school science teacher Mari Mahanna emphasized that the ultimate goal is to help students.
"If it wasn't for student achievement, the teachers wouldn't be looking at it," she said, noting that although student achievement in Hayden isn't bad, it needs to improve.
"We need this collaboration time, I don't know how many times we need to say it," Mahanna said.
High school and middle school Principal Troy Zabel, a proponent of PLC and the four-day week, further emphasized that point.
"Right now we have a model of remediation, not intervention, and we're not going to get that unless (staff) have time to talk," he said.
Although studies are inconclusive about the effects of four-day weeks on student progress, very detailed studies confirm the benefits of PLC, he said.
"My kids go to school here too ... and I'm putting my neck out on the line because I don't feel like they will be guinea pigs," Zabel said.
Parent Michelle Hoza, noting that Hayden Valley Elementary School has made more progress implementing PLC, questioned whether there might be other options for providing collaboration time just at the high school.
"Is the whole district broken or are we changing the whole district to help the high school?" she asked.
However, Rhonda Sweetser, building administrator at the elementary school, said further progress is limited by a lack of meeting time for teachers.
"We really do need to look at this also for the elementary," she said.
In addition to the four-day week, the board also considered extending the school year by a week and giving students more half-days or full days off throughout the year.
In the past, proposals to extend the school year have been a tough sell in Hayden, where families enjoy three-month summers.
Parents and teachers at the meeting, however, said they would be open to starting school a week earlier. Bruchez said the schedule would provide teachers collaborative days earlier in the school year.
"Why are you waiting three months into the school year to start collaborating?" she said. "It doesn't make sense to me."
Resident Tina Fry was among parents concerned about finding and paying for child care on Fridays and also keeping older students busy outside of school.
Parents also worried about young children who live far from town arriving home later in the day and athletic practices being pushed well into the evening.
Superintendent Mike Luppes said that the Totally Kids program has begun planning activities for students on Fridays. The activities likely would cost less than $200 for all 14 Fridays.
The district also is talking with town officials about scheduling skiing and other recreation activities on Fridays instead of Saturdays, he said.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail email@example.com