A school district outside of Denver found a way to save nearly $1 million: transitioning to a four-day school week. The move has come with mixed feelings as a growing number of school districts across the country make the same switch in an effort to save money.
School district 27J, just northeast of downtown, cited a funding shortfall for the change. By switching to a four-day week, the district says it can better recruit and retain teachers and allocate resources that are in short supply.
“I realize this will be a significant change… but our district can no longer be expected to do more with less financial resources,” said Superintendent Chris Fiedler.
The district serves nearly 18,000 students in Aurora, Thornton, Henderson, Brighton, and Commerce City. By getting rid of school on Mondays, the district will only need to pay for substitute teachers and bus service four days instead of five. Reducing bus service by one day a week is expected to save about $700,000. The remaining savings will come from reduced utility costs and fewer substitutes.
While savings are estimated at $1 million over the first year, the district has acknowledged that overtime is expected to increase as district administrators investigate ways to improve efficiency.
Public information officer Tracy L. Rudnick also said that while $1 million is just a small percentage of District 27J’s operating budget, the savings are expected to increase year after year.
One of the biggest challenges the district has faced is retaining quality teachers. Rudnick said that 27J is consistently one of the lowest funded districts in the Metro Denver area which makes it challenging to recruit and retain teachers. In a neighboring district, teachers can make nearly $10,000 more which has resulted in a 15% loss in the district’s teaching staff over the years.
The savings for the district will come at a cost to many parents who struggle to afford child care during work. Many parents of young children will likely find themselves spending more on child care although the district has said it plans to offer full-day child care on Mondays for $30 per student per day.
Students will still spend the same amount of time in the classroom as they did on the five-day schedule as classroom hours are extended Tuesday through Friday to accommodate the change. Teachers will still work one Monday each month as a half day.
District 27J repeatedly tried to seek additional funding through bond elections but it was not successful. The district isn’t alone in Colorado with the shorter school week: over 55% of districts in Colorado follow the four-day school schedule although most are in rural areas. District 27J has become the first Metro Denver school district and the largest district in the state to do so.