Kids try to fill extra day off with 4-day school week

Maurine Taufer leads children in a yoga tree circle at the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, which has been offering Garfield School District Re-2 students alternative activities on Fridays since the district went to a four-day school week.

It’s a Friday morning, but third-grader Devon Diambrosio isn’t sitting in a classroom at Kathryn Senor Elementary School in New Castle. Rather, she’s just completed a yoga session at the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts.

“It helps me stretch, and every time I’m done with yoga, my body feels brand-new,” Devon said. “It feels nice.”

It’s only thanks to a switch this fall to a four-day school week in the Garfield School District Re-2 that Devon is able to be spending Fridays participating in yoga, dance classes and other activities at the arts center.

“It’s awesome!” she said of having the extra day off from school each week.

But just a few rooms over, Antigonee Swan, a Riverside Middle School sixth-grader in New Castle, was less enthusiastic as she participated in a beginning guitar class at the art center. She’d rather be back in school, studying history, a favorite subject.

“I don’t like Fridays off. No offense to the school program, but I like to go to school,” she said.

Re-2, which serves students in New Castle through Rifle, was one of two districts in Garfield County to switch to a four-day week this fall. District 16, serving the Parachute and Battlement Mesa area, decided to hold no school on Mondays.

Parents’ views on the change appear to vary as much as their individual circumstances.

“I like it because I’m at home. I have a business where I can work out of my home,” said Phebe King of Rifle, who has five children in Rifle schools. “It’s nice to have the kids home an extra day where they can do chores. On Friday they can help (with chores) and on Saturday we can have a day to play.”

She added, “Education is more than just going to school, and (children) can be educated on Fridays, too.”

King said she understands, though, that for some families, finding day care might be a challenge.

James Kellogg of New Castle said his and his wife’s work schedules were one consideration in deciding to enroll their four children in Glenwood Springs schools after Re-2 made its switch. They both work in Glenwood Springs, helping make the transfer to Glenwood schools easier.

He said their children got a great education in New Castle, but he and his wife became concerned not only about how they would deal with no school on Friday, given their work schedules, but also about the longer school days in Re-2 on the other four days. Between school, extracurricular activities, dinner and homework, “we couldn’t see how it was going to work out without really cutting into the end of the day and the kids going to bed too late,” he said.

Diana Sirko, interim superintendent of the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District, which stretches from Glenwood Springs to Basalt, said she’s aware of anecdotal information of parents transferring their children to her district because of the switch to a four-day week at their schools. But she said the district also doesn’t know whether it may have lost some students because of families wanting to transfer their children to districts offering the compressed school week.

Glenda Oliver, principal of the St. Stephen’s Catholic grade school in Glenwood Springs, said her school had expected to see an influx of students from parents seeking to avoid four-day school weeks, but that largely failed to materialize.

Programs offered

Re-2 spokeswoman Theresa Hamilton said the district has been hearing generally positive comments about the change, and districtwide enrollment appears to be rising. District 16 Superintendent Ken Haptonstall said his enrollment is down perhaps 30 students, but departing families indicated they left for other reasons, such as for job opportunities in North Dakota’s oil fields.

He said he’s not aware of complaints or issues so far with the switch to a four-day week. Some families are taking advantage of education programs being offered on Mondays by agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado State University’s Extension service at one of the district schools thanks to a five-year grant.

Haptonstall said he’s not hearing from law enforcement about kids “running wild” on Mondays. Parachute police chief Cary Parmenter agreed that that’s been a non-issue.

Parmenter is the parent of three students in District 16.

“They’re all in sports so they still go to practice and do that stuff. They’re still keeping themselves busy,” he said of his children.

“I think we’ve adjusted pretty well (as a family),” he said. “It’s not as bad as we thought when we first heard about it. … It’s working pretty well for us.”

Re-2 and District 16 project annual savings of about $500,000 and $200,000, respectively, from the calendar change, thanks to spending reductions in areas such as transportation, meal preparation and custodial work. But District 16 is hoping for academic improvements as well. It previously held school for just a half-day on Wednesdays. Now each school day is 40 minutes longer, and the calendar isn’t affected by Monday holidays, so class time actually is being increased.

Academic progress

Re-2 settled on taking Fridays off because of the high number of substitute teachers it often needed that day due to teachers taking time off for coaching, professional development, or personal and sick leave.

Hamilton said the district board made clear from the outset that the future of the four-day week there will hinge on making sure various academic measures don’t go down. Last year, a Colorado Department of Education analysis found little difference in state assessment results and academic growth for students in the 67 districts then employing four-day weeks, compared with districts with five-day weeks.

Troy Tritschler, who has two boys in New Castle schools, said he’ll be interested to see how the district does on state test scores.

Tritschler initially had reservations about the calendar change, thinking the district rushed too quickly to adopt it rather than considering other measures such as trying again to get a tax increase passed. But other than the fact that it’s harder for him and his wife to get their children out the door earlier in the morning, he said that so far the change hasn’t been as bad as he feared.

“The kids like it. They certainly like not having to go to school on Fridays,” he said.

Gayle Mortell, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, which offers yoga, dance, pottery and other programs on Fridays for Re-2 students for about $40 a day, said the students’ parents have been none too happy with the four-day week.

“They’re definitely grumbling to me about it. They all feel like they were just left out in the cold,” she said.

Local municipal recreation departments, libraries and Colorado Mountain College are among other organizations that have stepped up to offer alternative Friday activities for Re-2 students.


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