A trend that’s been almost two decades in the making in Colorado is a movement from a 5-day to a 4-day school week. By Colorado law, schools must meet the requirement of at least 1080 student contact hours a year. Historically, schools have met or exceeded that requirement with a 180-day calendar. Schools meet Monday-Friday for six hours. But currently that typical school calendar looks quite different in more than half of Colorado schools. In the 2017-2018 school year, schools in 55% of Colorado districts – or a total of 98 districts – are now on a 4-day school week, meeting 7.5 hours for 144 days in order to meet or exceed the 1080-hour mandate. Mostly, financial reasons are given for this change, but some schools also view a 4-day week as a way to retain teachers.
By shifting to a 4-day school week, districts can reduce transportation and food costs by 20%. But those aren’t the only budget tightening measures: utilities are reduced and fewer substitute teachers are needed. Teacher salary is not impacted; however, in some instances, hours are cut for aides and paraprofessionals. Two districts, recently making the change, claimed a savings of $1,000,000 just the first year.
With a serious problem of teacher shortage throughout the state, a 4-day week is enticing to many teachers. A suburban district that announced its move to a 4-day week saw a major increase in the number of teacher applicants at a recent job fair. Many of the applicants commented that they were attracted to the district because of the 4-day week. This was true even though the district has one of the lowest pay schedules in the Denver metro area.
What’s the impact on student achievement? According to several studies, student performance on Colorado state assessments appears to be the same for students in a 4-day and 5-day week. Recently another study presented a worrisome finding: an uptick in juvenile crime for students in the shorter school week.
However, that statistic is not likely one districts will pay much attention to as they decide whether or not to shorten the school week. With ever tightening school budgets and a shortage of teachers, many educators predict that even more Colorado schools will be changing their calendars.