The Hayden School Board discussed pros and cons of implementing a four-day student school week for a portion of the 2005-06 school year.
The idea was raised as a possible budget-saving measure, but a closer look has shown more potential benefits for teacher development, Superintendent Mike Luppes said.
Luppes and Troy Zabel, principal of Hayden Middle School and Hayden High School, proposed a four-day schedule for 13 weeks between Thanksgiving and spring break.
Students would have Fridays off. Teachers would work 10 Fridays for about four hours. They would spend most of that time working together to assess students, develop achievement goals, evaluate testing scores and study teaching strategies.
Zabel stressed that the schedule would give schools and teachers uninterrupted "sacred time" to fully implement Professional Learning Communities, an education model focused on teacher collaboration.
"We need to break our instructional isolation," he said.
Zabel, elementary school building Administrator Rhonda Sweetser and middle school Dean of Students Gina Zabel have discussed the four-day week with teachers. No one is adamantly opposed to the schedule.
High school science teacher Mari Mahanna was among teachers who said they rarely have time to work and plan with other teachers.
"I haven't talked to another science teacher other than during in-service days," she said. "That collaborative piece -- we have got to find a way to get that in."
The proposed schedule would add a minimum of 33 minutes to each school day. Day care for younger children is among the biggest concerns about the schedule.
However, the longer school day may require less after-school day care, and older students would be available to baby-sit, Zabel said.
He noted that state reports showing the schedule results in fewer "latch-key" children or students who are home alone before parents arrive home from work.
The Totally Kids activities program also may be interested in starting a Friday program for children, Luppes said.
Other possible disadvantages include the potential of losing students to other districts, but the schedule also may attract new students, Luppes said.
Many of the advantages and disadvantages discussed were based on information Luppes and Troy Zabel gathered from other Colorado school districts, such as the East Grand School District, that have implemented the schedule.
Most districts' feedback corresponded with national studies showing a four-day week had positive effects on teacher and student attendance and morale. Districts also reported the schedule had no effect on special needs students, though there are no studies on the issue, Luppes said.
Board member Brian Hoza, who is the district's representative on the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services, said he was surprised to hear that nearly all seven districts served by the organization are considering a four-day plan. The districts are looking at that option for various reasons, he said.
The proposed schedule would save the Hayden School District a minimum of $10,000, not enough to justify the change solely for budgetary purposes, Luppes said.
"The more we look at it, the more these other advantages come to the forefront," he said.
While some parents have expressed strong opinions in favor or opposition to a four-day week, most just have a lot of questions, Luppes said.