Alexander Commits, Savage Considers 4-Day School Week
March 21, 2018 | View PDF
Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, Alexander Public Schools will join East Fairview, Fairview Public Schools, and many other regional schools in instituting a 4-day school week. Savage Public Schools may not be far behind, as the school is currently amidst a public meeting process to solicit community input on the matter.
The 4-day school week is an innovative and relatively new concept spreading across the United States. Improved morale in teachers and students, financial savings, and improved student and teacher attendance, as well as improvement in standardized test scores, are just some of the reported benefits of switching to a 4-day school week compared to the traditional 5-day week. However, some opponents allege that the concept hasn’t been in practice long enough to establish a steady upward trend in test scores, and weekend learning-loss may pose a significant barrier to student learning, as typically, each weekend may be 3 days long.
Alexander Public Schools Commits to 4-Day School Week
In Alexander, what began as an Innovation Class project was presented to Superintendent Leslie Bieber in both spring and fall of 2017, and presented to the School Board in December. The Board gave consent to conduct a parent survey and public meetings in January. According to Shannon Faller, High School principal, she, Elementary principal Ms. Shaide, and four students traveled to Fairview and East Fairview “to see what the 4 day school week looked like and ask the opinion of their staff and students”. Amid support from parents and teachers, the Board approved the decision to move forward with the North Dakota state application for change to a 4-day school week.
Though the school week is shorter, the instructional time does not change, remaining at 1038 hours for high school students. Teacher work load, expectations of students, school activities, transportation, school meals, breaks and evaluations also remain unchanged. What is affected by the new school week is a change to normal business hours for teachers, additional time built in for one-on-one and small group instruction, and relief of academic fatigue. Pending Board approval, Alexander Public Schools will implement several programs to help address some community member’s concerns about not having school on Fridays. According to Faller, “Our plan for the four day week includes two Friday programs, Friday Intervention Time (FIT program) and the High Five Club. The FIT program will be for students who are not at grade level, struggling with content material, or need assistance with homework due to absences. This is designed to have teachers available for students to receive the assistance and remediation in a small group or one on one setting. The High Five Club will be an enrichment opportunity that provides engaging, hands-on programming for those Alexander students who do not have a place to be on Fridays. Breakfast, lunch, and bussing will be provided on Fridays,” she said.
Alexander teachers were supportive of the idea of a short school week, as high school teachers expected improvement in student morale and appreciated more time in class. Elementary teachers looked forward to more one-on-one time or small group time with students. Extra recess and down time would be built into the school day for elementary students.
In the parent survey, a large percentage of respondents were supportive of the new school week, but others expressed concerns about finding day care on Fridays, anticipated difficulties for special needs students, and wearing students out with such long school days.
It was with careful consideration of both positive and negative feedback that the Alexander Public School Board made their decision to move forward with the application to change to a 4-day school week. The effects of the change will be evaluated annually, as required by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. The school has received a one-year waiver for the new school week, and will reapply next year for an additional one-year waiver, and after that, a 5-year approval. Student performance, data on progress and declines, changes in academic opportunities and teacher effectiveness will all be evaluated each year. School Superintendent Leslie Bieber explains that “We are excited about this upcoming change as a great opportunity for our kids and community. ”
Savage Public Schools Considers 4-Day School Week
Savage Public School is in the later steps of investigating whether to implement a 4-day school week, currently working on soliciting input from parents and community members.
According to Savage Public School teacher and counselor Sarah Tuttle, Savage has “looked into the 4-day school week before as a district, but never as extensively as we are now. We’ve heard how much other schools like the 4 day week and as a teaching staff, we felt it would be a good fit for our school and community. Therefore, we decided to put in the research time to create an informed presentation for our school board and community,” she explained.
Tuttle presented the information to the Savage School Board of Trustees at a recent meeting. So far, Savage has implemented staff surveys and school family surveys, and is currently collecting community input through Facebook and the school’s postal patron. It has been found that though many are in favor of the change, there is some opposition in the survey responses.
At Savage, students are released early on Fridays already, so eliminating regular school hours on Friday should not significantly affect the amount of teaching. Staff and students alike are excited at the prospect of bringing study hall back into play, as students in grades 7-12 would have 30 minutes that could be used for class and club meetings, reducing or even eliminating interruption to class.
Savage is also proposing an optional Friday school, where “ineligible, struggling, or students that simply want further assistance can come to the school and get more individualized instruction. This option would be available to students of all ages. Teachers and classroom aides have agreed to divide up Fridays so that students can come in from 8-12 for additional instructional assistance if the students or their parents feel it would be beneficial. Furthermore, our music teacher loves the idea of having Fridays to offer music lessons to students,” Tuttle said.
As Tuttle explained, “We feel there are many benefits to our students or we wouldn’t be pursuing it and putting in the work that we have. Our staff feels it will give them adequate time to prepare meaningful lessons for their students. In addition, teachers will have more time to evaluate student work and plan next steps for instruction. Finally, it allows for more family time for students and staff alike.”
The Savage School Board of Trustees will review community feedback to make their decision whether to implement a 4-day school week for the 2018-2019 academic year.