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Recent study of local school district's shortened week met with criticism from officials

Teacher Jessica Flores stands in front of a chalkboard with a laptop in hand while a couple other young students sit at desks working on laptops with an aid standing nearby in a classroom in Denver's Newlon Elementary School.
David Zalubowski
Teacher Jessica Flores directs students as they work on laptops in a classroom in Newlon Elementary School on, Aug. 25, 2020, in Denver, Colo. Urban areas in Colorado, like Denver, have kept five-day school weeks. In some of the state's rural areas, however, school districts have reduced their schedules to four-day weeks to save money and allow staff extra time for planning.

The 27J School District in Brighton switched to a four-day school week in 2018 to save money and provide additional planning time for teachers.

Arecent Brown University study of the district's shorter week found, however, the shorter school week could hurt the housing market, cause a decline in student achievement and decrease the number of teachers and staff in a district. The study has been met with criticism from school district officials, including 27J Superintendent Chris Fiedler.

Chalkbeat Colorado Reporter Yesenia Robles tells KUNC host Michael Lyle, Jr. that despite the results of the study, the district is unlikely to go back to a five-day week schedule.

"The school district leaders are still pretty confident that that the four-day school week achieved what they needed it to," Robles said. "It was the right call for them at the time."

Several school districts in Colorado currently have four-day school weeks in place, with the majority of them in rural communities.

Robles said there's little chance that districts in Colorado's urban communities would follow the same format.

"I think we're probably a ways out from that," Robles said. "Certainly it's something that people are considering across the country, for for various reasons. I think this study suggests to those leaders that that they need to think a little bit more about what other impacts might be there that we might not understand completely yet."

Robles said she spoke with staff in the 27J district who told her they feel the four-day plan helps them work more efficiently.

"A lot of them might end up working anyway, in terms of like grading papers and planning," Robles said. "But not having to be in class or in meetings all day is helpful."

Robles added that the district has seen improvements in teacher retention since implementing a four-day school week and that administrators believe attracting and keeping staff will not be a major issue in the foreseeable future.

I serve as the afternoon host for KUNC’s All Things Considered. My job is to keep our listeners across Northern Colorado informed on the day’s top stories from around the communities we serve. On occasion, I switch roles and hit the streets of northern Colorado digging up human interest stories or covering a major event that’s taking place in our listening area.
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