School District eyeing a 4-day school week

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The Hayden School District plans to investigate the possibility of a four-day school week for students next school year.

The Hayden School Board last Wednesday cautiously directed Superintendent Mike Luppes to look into a four-day schedule as a way of saving money and providing more collaboration and professional development time for teachers.

Luppes presented the board with several options for changing the school calendar during a School Board work session. Other options included adding two teacher in-service days at the beginning of the school year and implementing a four-day school week between Thanksgiving and spring break, toward the end of March.

Altering the school calendar is among ways the district will look into balancing the 2005-06 school year budget. Luppes said Tuesday that the district is facing about a $200,000 shortfall, the result in part of declining student enrollment.

He is in the process of presenting a rough budget outlook to staff committees and district and school improvement teams.

Four-day weeks throughout the school year would require longer school days and/or an extended school year to comply with state requirements, Luppes said.

Teachers' daily contractual obligations, however, would be shortened to allow for several hours of professional development time on Fridays. Teachers now have about an hour and 15 minutes of planning and meeting time each day, Luppes said.

Hayden Middle and High School Principal Troy Zabel supports the four-day week because it would help the schools implement an education model emphasizing teacher collaboration in assessing students and helping them work toward achievement goals.

Finding time for teachers to regularly meet is one of the biggest obstacles in pursuing the model, known as Professional Learning Communities, Zabel said.

"It really opened my eyes to the things we could do at the middle and high school that we haven't been able to do," he said. "I think we really can address the quality of time we spend with the kids."

Hayden Valley Elementary School teacher-leader Rhonda Sweetser said the shortened week also would help elementary teachers whose collaboration time often is interrupted by student issues.

School Board members and parents at the meeting had many concerns, including child care.

"It would be a nightmare for me to find day care for a 10-year-old one day a week," said parent Ann Willingham, who also questioned how a four-day week would affect Friday sports events.

Luppes responded that there may be an opportunity to look into a day-care center in Hayden, possibly through Totally Kids, a nonprofit activities program for children.

He also noted that a four-day week might be more logical for sporting events, which take a significant number of students from school for out-of-town games on Fridays, he said.

Studies have shown that four-day weeks have minimal effects on students, but board vice president Jody Camiletti worried that the shorter week wouldn't provide adequate learning time for special needs students.

"I have a concern with students that need help," she said.

Although board members agreed the issue needs a lot more discussion, they told Luppes it was worth seeking staff and parent input, as well as information from districts that have implemented the shortened week.

"Theoretically, it makes sense," board member Brian Hoza said. "It's whether we can work out the intricacies."

Although there is no set deadline for confirming the 2005-06 schedule, the district's calendar usually is finalized in March or April, Luppes said.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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