Below is some information that may be helpful, based on questions, feedback, and emails we have received.
- Everything we do is centered on student learning and how to provide the best we can for our students. The 4 day school week conversation has raised big (and good) questions; it is one item on a list of many things we are working on in an effort to continually improve. While we believe this schedule model supports the things that will make a positive impact on student learning, is only one leverage point.
- We have raised this question of the 4 day school week as we see merit in the model as well as relevance for Clear Creek. We believe a 4 day school week may help us achieve our 3 core priorities - Empowered Learners, Best Educators, Visionary District. We are also considering a 4-day week because we have very strong partners ready and willing to be part of an excellent ‘5th day’ solution.
- The interest in a 4 day school week actually began in 2018, but with leadership changes the efforts didn’t continue. The question was again raised last year; given the many priorities we opted to wait until this winter to pick up the research efforts, quickly leading into strategies for hearing from stakeholders. Since we’ve begun these efforts, it’s quickly become evident that the timeline feels too fast. Families need a chance to hear the draft plans and make decisions based on what they feel is best for their children. And, we need more time to work through the many opportunities that our community partners have discussed with us.
- Time: Teacher lunches, while scheduled for 30 minutes, are often closer to 15-20 minutes after getting kids to lunch/recess. Planning periods are45 minutes but often closer to 30 min as things that must be handled chip away at the time.The reality is that what teachers need to do in this timeframe is far more substantial than the time allowed. The bottom line is, high quality teaching and learning takes time. It takes continued professional learning, it takes collaboration, it takes time to analyze and use student data to inform instruction. We don’t spend enough time on this and we don’t spend enough time together as educators, which is a gap in current schedules.
- Days: There are 11 teacher days without students that are considered work days, which are used for planning, grading, reporting trimester or semester grades, and professional learning. Teachers receive 11 days total sick/personal (paid time off) for use over the 9 months of school. Many chose not to use them as preparing sub plans (and getting a sub) is a heavy lift, and a day away from student learning.
- Rankings: It’s important to consider what it is we desire to measure, especially when looking at the US News rankings: students taking AP tests and state standardized tests (which have a high correlation with socioeconomic status) is one set of measures. Families want so much more: diverse programming and class choices, healthy learning environments, quality teachers, strong student culture, and more.
- Post high school: Post secondary options including colleges often have varied class schedules. Most college students do not attend class 5 days a week, 7 hours each day. There is an emphasis on quality not quantity. Further, jobs and schedules are changing, and we hear even from many of our families that parents work varied schedules with much more flexibility now than in the past. We cannot predict the jobs our students will have available to them. We can do our best to prepare them for their future, not ours, by teaching not only academic content and essential skills, but skills that have been identified by research to include things like collaboration, communication, problem-solving and more. These skills we are integrating into our current 5 day week teaching & learning curriculum, and believe a 5th day could provide additional opportunities not always easily found in the classroom.
- Connecting learning to student passions is an effective way to deepen student learning. We see it as our responsibility to support students to identify and develop their passions and this is potentially a big part of what a 5th day can offer. Our expectation is that many of our students will not see this as a ‘day off’, but rather a choice day that aligns with student interests. This 5th day could prove especially valuable for high school aged students who may be able to secure an internship, apprenticeship, or job during the work week which would likely provide the valuable "real world" experience.
- To be clear, we do not envision a ‘fifth day’ as merely a day off for students. Although the thinking is to make it a choice day, we plan to hire a fifth-day coordinator to connect students and families with numerous enrichment opportunities in and around our community - and ultimately have a diverse options that are exciting for all of our students. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) opportunities will be a priority for students. Our high quality partner organizations including Mountain Youth Network (MYN), CCMRD, Clear Creek Library District, Resilience1220 have all committed to provide programming to students and in some cases families. This will happen regardless of 4 or 5 day school weeks, but we know that a current challenge for our partners is the scarcity of time with kids to deliver programming. We are exploring before and after school programs, weekend and summer programs, and ‘fifth day’ opportunities.
- Our teachers are AWESOME! The unfortunate reality is that we pay our teachers significantly less (approximately 15% less) than surrounding districts. This puts our educators in a terrible position: stay in a district where they love to work (often driving through 1-3 other districts who pay much higher since many teachers live down the hill to find affordable housing), or make a move to another higher paying district that might be closer to home. A 4-day week has shown to be effective in attracting and retaining teachers.
- Timeline: the board will not likely choose to go to a 4-day school week in August 2021, but rather seriously consider a transition for the 2022-2023 school year, with specific questions or requirements that must be true in order to transition.
Courant Article Feb 2021
We’ve learned quite a bit over the last year, specifically around teaching and learning during a pandemic. Thanks to the herculean efforts of our educators, families, students, and Clear Creek Public Health, we’ve had students in school, in person, five days a week, for the majority of the year. So why would we consider a four day school week as a school district?
So evident this past year is the fact that connections and relationships matter to kids. Further, compliance-driven learning doesn’t work; instead kids learn best when content and skills are connected to meaningful activities. Students need voice and choice: they need opportunities to help design their own learning pathways. Some students learn best outside of the classroom walls. And, we live in the beautiful mountains, where nature and adventure meet, creating a whole other classroom waiting to be explored.
If we think about time differently, what learning opportunities might await students? Could this provide time for student internships, apprenticeships, outdoor exploration, passion-driven experiences, enrichments, independent study projects? What about families who want more time together? Kids who want to do Snowdodgers on Fridays? Community partners who might offer clubs or outdoor adventures? Further, could we create more time for our educators to engage in planning, learning, and preparing? Great teaching takes time and well-balanced, well-versed educators.
We are asking educators, families and students: what do you think about moving to a four day school week? There are questions about the four day week on the CCSD Winter Survey that has been sent to all families & educators. We also have a dedicated team of educators who comprise our Four Day Week Task Force; they are working in three groups: researchers, listeners, and solution designers. You might be contacted by the listeners to provide feedback. Everyone is invited to share thoughts via the survey or by emailing email@example.com.
So what do we know already about the four day school week? 62% of school districts in Colorado, 111 out of 178, are currently using a four day week model. There are wonderful examples of success, and others that are still aspirational in finding the best model.If a four day week is what our community wants, student learning will remain a top priority. Clear Creek will continue to meet the required instructional minutes throughout the school year. We cannot place an undue burden on our families. Looking through an equity and inclusion lens: any new model must provide access and opportunity to all students. Our educators (and in Clear Creek, all employees are educators as they all impact student learning) must find value in the model.
As a parent, I’ve always wished for a more predictable school schedule and calendar year. I do a terrible job of keeping track of the professional learning days, the holidays, the end of trimester days. As a district and school leader, I’ve sometimes been the one writing the schedules and I still cannot keep track of the days! One possibility with a four day school week is more predictability.
Our Board of Education will hear initial findings from the Four Day Task Force in March. Please make your voice part of this information by completing the Winter Survey (link is on all school websites and was emailed to families), sharing your thoughts as part of a focus group, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regardless of the schedule we follow next year in CCSD, it’s bound to be an exciting year as we shift from “pandemic learning” to recovery and redesign. Already we are working on strategies to address what I began this article with: relationships & connections, student voice & choice, moving away from compliance driven instruction to meaningful, authentic learning experiences, and expanding learning from inside the classroom to outdoors.
As always, I’m humbled to lead in such an amazing community, Clear Creek.
Superintendent & Lead Learner
4-Day School Week FAQ’s
Why is CCSD considering a switch to a 4 Day School Week schedule?
A 4 day school week schedule aligns with CCSD priorities: Best Educators, Empowered Learners, and Visionary District.
Best Educators: The research clearly shows that a 4 day school week attracts and retains educators. Further, teachers have the single most important impact on student learning. Teachers need solid blocks of time to plan and engage in professional learning so they can deliver the best instruction. A fifth day provides this opportunity.
Empowered Learners: We are moving towards a more experiential learning model at our elementary schools. At the secondary level, we are engaging students in more career and community connected learning. It takes time to learn and plan for such essential work.
We also plan to provide student-driven enrichment opportunities on the fifth day through community partners and district-connected staff. Internships, job shadows, college level courses, and more could be available to students. Outdoor activities connected to science, social emotional learning, community service, and more would be offered over time.
Visionary District: we’ve learned a lot during the pandemic. How we use time, technology, and outdoor spaces are more flexible than anyone ever thought. We aspire to deliver the very best, most engaging, most thought-provoking learning experiences. And, we aspire to do this in collaboration with our community partners. We are rich in Clear Creek with people and organizations who care deeply about student success. Let’s work together to provide incredible, innovative experiences for our kids.
What do we know about the impact of a 4 Day School Week on student academic performance?
Research is varied on this topic, likely because there is variability in how it is implemented. CCSD is aspiring to increase instructional hours for students, even with this shift in calendar. This isn’t what a typical district calendar change accomplishes. (we just know it is important) Additionally, there are many factors associated with student academic performance. Therefore, making an explicit connection to a four day school week is challenging. No matter what, we will monitor student learning and growth and adjust instruction & interventions accordingly.
How will my child benefit from a 4 Day School Week schedule?
Educators having time to collaborate, learn, and plan will have a positive impact on teaching & learning. Additionally, a Four Day School Week is a proven strategy for recruiting and retaining educators. The fifth day (Friday) will provide opportunities for students to experience different kinds of learning, or enjoy family time. Some students will seek out fifth day enrichment opportunities and thrive in a different learning environment. Other students will benefit from having a fifth day with no direct instruction, and instead have time to complete homework and seek extra help as available (depending on need/demand, we may provide extra academic support for students in the form of tutoring or homework help). Some students will simply enjoy more time with family, or use the time to ski, bike, hike, or other activities available because of our mountain location.
Will the district save money on a 4 Day School Week schedule?
No. While some districts embarked on a 4-day schedule with the intent of saving money, research shows that it is not typically a large cost-saving measure. We will save some dollars due to decreased fuel and maintenance costs. We do anticipate savings in terms of less staff turnover (training new employees is costly in terms of time and money). But our “drivers” for shifting to a Four Day School Week are focused on delivering the best instruction to students.
Will there be a cost to 5th day activities?
Fifth day activities will be offered at low to no cost for families, thanks to a 21st Century Learning Grant (this is a three year grant, and we plan to apply for future years if families see value in the offerings/program). Please visit the COMPASS Day (5th day) website for more information https://sites.google.com/
Will 5th day activities be all day?
It depends. At the elementary level, we plan to hold fifth day activities 8am-12noon. We believe Kids Korner will offer afternoon care (with a cost) for students in the Idaho Springs area. Depending on family feedback/needs, we may be able to offer similar afternoon care in the Evergreen (King Murphy) area as well. At the elementary level, there will be days that sponsored activities last longer than the morning and afternoon “care” won’t be needed. At the secondary level, timing will vary depending on the activity.
Are there other school districts in Colorado that operate on a 4-day schedule?
112 (63%) of Colorado's school districts are on 4-day weeks. They are predominantly, although not exclusively, rural districts. Some charter schools as well as 1 BOCES are on a 4-day week. Neighboring districts to Clear Creek that are on a 4-day week include West Grand, East Grand and Gilpin County School District. Jefferson County School District has some schools on a 4-day week schedule.
Will lunch be available for students on the 5th day?
No. We are not able to provide a typical cafeteria-style lunch on Fridays, the 5th day as it’s not an official day of school so doesn’t qualify for federal funding. Students who participate in 5th day activities will need to bring a sack lunch.
Will transportation be available for students on the 5th day?
Maybe. While we know that makes things tricky for families to plan, we need to only offer busing if we have a need. Feedback continues to come in from families on needs, including transportation. If we offer busing, it will be “hub” style, with centralized bus stops (not the typical routes).
When will the school calendar be available?
Late January. However we will share 2-3 calendar drafts with families in early January and ask for feedback. Current drafts include a later August start date (to accommodate for warm weather and based on current feedback) and a later end date of the first week in June (to accommodate for cooler, rainy weather and based on current feedback). Plans include having school on MLK Day and President’s Day, no school on Memorial and Labor Day.
What about the start and end times for school?
We anticipate start times to be 8am (middle and high school) and either 3:45pm or 4pm for end times (middle and high school). The current preference is 3:45pm to allow a bit more time to get to after school activities. Elementary start and end times would mirror these times with the potential to be a bit later in the morning by 10-15 minutes depending on transportation schedules. The highest instructional time requirement exists at the high school level; we want to be sure our youngest learners are set up for success with their schedule as well.
Community Listening Sessions March 2021