Short week up for discussion

Posted 4/7/09

For one student at Elizabeth High School, the thought of a four-day school week does not sound appealing. Jacob Patrick is a junior at Elizabeth High …

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Short week up for discussion


For one student at Elizabeth High School, the thought of a four-day school week does not sound appealing. Jacob Patrick is a junior at Elizabeth High and after experiencing a four-day school week in Elbert, he is concerned about his education.

Patrick brought his concerns to the school board at the March 31 open forum regarding the potential four-day school week.

He told the board that after his past experience, he did not have enough time to finish homework by the time he made it home after school activities, which was around 8 p.m. He said he also wants the best education possible and hopes teachers will remain in the district even without a four-day week.

“I hope to be a teacher one day and I know Elizabeth teachers don’t get paid very much,” he said. “But if I were a teacher, I would be here to teach and I would not want to cheat my kids out of an education.”

Similar questions and concerns regarding the potential four-day school week for the Elizabeth C-1 School District were raised at the meeting in the gymnasium at Running Creek Elementary by parents and teachers who gathered to hear a presentation given by Superintendent Paul Dellacroce. A question-and-answer portion followed with Dellacroce and three school board members — Rick Stone, Dan Hill and Marcia Beach-Lyons.

The board members agreed, saying the main reason for the switch to a shorter school week is teacher retention. Currently the district loses 30-40 teachers a year, with shortfalls in math, science, foreign language and special education teachers. Because the school does not have the funds to compete on salaries with neighboring districts, the best alternative was a four-day school week.

“Elizabeth is sandwiched between two of the richest school districts, Douglas County and Cherry Creek, and they raid out our teachers as much as they can,” said Stone. “We get the good teachers in the beginning, but by year three or four the other two counties come and get them. We are a training ground here in Elizabeth for the teachers the first couple years.”

Stone said that many teachers that are interviewed before they leave the district for another teaching job said that they would have stayed in Elizabeth if they had the option of a four-day school week. He said 84 percent of the current teachers in the district surveyed are in favor of the shorter week and said the most important thing for the school board is maintaining high educational opportunities.

Although students will have a day off in the week, teachers in the district will be able to use the day away from students to plan lessons, catch up on grading and work on class projects without the time interfering with their weekends, Stone said.

The district will also be saving $150,000 per year with a shorter week. The funds saved will go directly back in to the schools for technology upgrades, such as computers, which will help production in the classroom, Stone said.

“We are light years behind in technology and we want to use the saved money for technology to educate the kids,” Stone said.

“We are not looking to save money, we are looking to retain teachers,” Beach-Lyons said.

The money saved will not affect the budget overall and will not change the amount of the budget, Dellacroce said. Funds will be reorganized not only to purchase technology equipment but also to ensure classified employees such as bus drivers, support personnel and office employees, are not affected by the change economically.

If the district were to change, students would either have a Monday or a Friday off during the week and 45 minutes would be added to the remaining four days, 15 minutes to the start of the day and 30 minutes to the end of the day. Colorado state law requires school districts to adopt a schedule of at least 1,080 hours for secondary school and 990 hours for elementary schools. Currently the district uses 1,095 hours for secondary schools and elementary schools per school year and a potential four-day week would have 1,087 hours for secondary schools and elementary schools per year, losing only eight hours per school year.

But many of the comments made by parents during the meeting disagreed with the route the school board may be taking. Many comments were made to the board regarding student fatigue due to the longer school day. Parents expressed their concern for the younger students not being able to pay attention during the entire span of the day as well as reduced time in the evenings for homework and playtime.

Although longer days may be hard for some students and even some teachers, one high school social studies teacher, Terry Bonewell, said she believes she can overcome the obstacles through proper planning and structure. But Bonewell said the four-day week is more like a quick fix to the salary problem in the district.

“I can say with the utmost confidence that the colleagues I work with believe the four-day week is only a temporary solution and the salary issues would still need to be addressed within the next two or three years at most,” she said.

Transportation and child care were also hot topics during the meeting. Currently the earliest bus pick-up time is 6:35 a.m. and the latest drop-off time is 4:20 p.m. With a longer day the earliest pick-up time would be 6:20 a.m. and the latest drop-off time would be 4:50 p.m. One parent explained to the board that his daughters already spend over an hour a day on the bus and he said he is concerned his children will not have enough time to spend playing after school and spending time with the family.

Stone said the school board is discussing adding at least two more bus routes to help with the earlier and later times. He said the board is looking at ways to make the transportation system work in a feasible manner without too many changes for the students.

In regards to child care, Stone said the school board is looking at available alternatives for families, depending on the demand.

Although many of the comments made during the meeting were in opposition to the decision, an Elizabeth teacher did agree with the potential change. Marilyn Travis is a second-grade teacher at Running Creek Elementary. She told the board that many other teachers she has spoken with are also in favor of the four-day school week. She said one of the best benefits to the longer day for her is being able to teach science every day to her class as well as seeing every reading group in her class every day of the week. Another benefit she mentioned was having a day during the week to get work done, without it interfering with her weekend.

“Having time to spend the weekends with our families is a huge boost for the families,” she said. “We know we won’t make as much money here, but it’s the packaged deal that is appealing and the four-day week is a great benefit.”

Marilyn’s husband, Mitch Travis, is also an Elizabeth teacher who teaches performing arts at the high school. He said the four-day school week offers the district a chance to encourage teachers to stay and is basically cost-free while saving money. And if it does not work, it costs nothing to return to the standard five-day week. But Mitch Travis is also aware of the benefits to having a consistent teaching staff.

“We all know the importance of consistency in learning and the best way to achieve that is to have a consistent, good teaching staff,” he said. “And if we continue to lose teachers that’s not good for education of anyone’s kids.”

The board is scheduled to vote on the topic at the April 16 board meeting at Elizabeth High School. One more open forum is scheduled for April 11 in the cafetorium at the high school for any community members with questions and comments. People can also get information on the four-day week on the district’s Web site,


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