District 51 appropriately cautious on four-day school week

On the face of it, switching school calendars from a five-day week to a four-day week sounds like an easy way to save a chunk of change.

School buses could run one day less each week. Utilities could presumably be cut by 20 percent. And hours could be reduced for nonteaching personnel such as kitchen and custodial staff.

Roughly a third of the school districts in Colorado have already made the switch, and some say they realized significant savings in the process.

However, the impacts to the budget often aren’t as straightforward as they originally seem.

If athletic teams, bands or other extracurricular activities must use school facilities five days a week, then utility savings may be less than initially projected. The same may be true with transportation costs.

And the impact to families could be even more significant — especially those with incomes low enough that they qualify to for free or reduced lunches. Students from such families now make up almost half of the District 51 population — 45 percent, up from 39 percent just last year, said District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz.

The district must be careful not to add a debilitating extra financial burden — in the form of new day care costs — to such families, Schultz said.

Additionally, while school days would be longer with a four-day-a-week calendar to ensure there is the same amount of classroom time, the shorter week can have academic consequences. Each day a student is absent means he or she misses more instruction time.

Despite all this, it may be the potential savings make a four-day week worth examining further, along with ways to resolve some of the problems discussed above.

However, we’re pleased to see that District 51 officials are looking at all the potential impacts, not just the bottom line on the budget ledger.


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