Garfield District 16 switching to 4-day school week

The school district serving Parachute and Battlement Mesa is the second in Garfield County to decide to switch to a four-day school week.

Garfield County School District 16 also will end the use of St John Elementary School as a school, and instead will use it as a community and student center.

The actions reflect the district’s efforts to cut its budget, but it also hopes to boost students’ academic performance through a four-day school week.

“In the end, because of the schedule, they will get more instructional time,” said Sarah Orona, the district’s school board president.

That’s partly because Wednesdays previously have been half-days for the district. Now it will take Mondays off instead, but that’s something it already frequently does because of holidays, Orona said. By adding about 50 minutes of class time a day, students will get about 13 minutes a day of extra instructional time, she said.

The district also is pointing to research suggesting a four-day week reduces student and staff absenteeism and boosts student achievement. District officials hope the change can help improve student test scores after about a decade of the district being unable to consistently boost student performance.

“We wanted to see some drastic improvements,” said Orona, who said she was won over as a four-day-week supporter after initially being skeptical about the idea.

The Garfield Re-2 School District, which serves Rifle to New Castle, recently decided to adopt a four-day school calendar as a budget-cutting move. It previously considered but ruled out closing a school.

Both districts are suffering from state budget cuts, and their voters in the fall rejected tax measures.

District 16 has a second elementary school, Bea Underwood. The district has decided not to shut down the St John building altogether because it would cost about $152,000 to do so, and the building is expected to be needed later because of expected population growth.

Instead, the building will be made available for extended-day and summer-school programs, for activities when the district doesn’t have school on Mondays, and for community use. The district recently received a five-year grant to cover the cost of the extended-day and summer-school programs.

It also will be working with the Parachute Parks and Recreation Department and with Access Roaring Fork, a local organization offering extended-day and other programs, to provide activities on Mondays for students.


COMMENTS

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Congratulations to the school board and administration of Garfield District 16 for making some tough decisions in the best interest of your community and students.  Could you set up an inservice with the school board and administration of District 51 in Mesa County?  The topic would be about making tough decisions while maintaining integrity and promoting professionalism for educators all in conjunction with saving millions of dollars and keeping valuable personnel.  I’ll buy the coffee and donuts!

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