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Several Nye County schools will shift to 4-day-school week

Updated June 6, 2019 - 4:10 pm

Several Nye County schools will be moving to a four-day school week with the first year of implementation planned for the 2019-20 school session.

Schools in Beatty, Amargosa Valley and Tonopah within the Nye County School District system will move to a four-day schedule starting in the upcoming school year. The Nye County School District Board of Trustees voted in favor of the measure on schools in Amargosa Valley and Beatty during its April meeting with Tonopah passing earlier in 2019.

The Nye County School District is set to save dollars with the reduction to a four-day schedule, but that wasn’t the central debate.

“There is an understanding in the district that this will probably save some money, but that was not central to the debate,” said Jim Fossett, director of rural schools for the Nye County School District, in an email. “The district and local leaders’ main concerns were impact on students, communities and academic outcomes.”

Fossett said that “finding the research to point strongly to positive impact, and having 80-90% of all stakeholders in agreement that they would like to try out a four-day week, the schools requested change, and the school board gave them the go-ahead.”

Several leaders in the school district worked on the four-day week initiative, including Chris Brockman, K-8 principal at Amargosa Valley Schools and the K-12 principal at Beatty Schools; David Fossett, assistant principal, Tonopah schools; Charles Fannin, K-8 assistant principal at Amargosa Valley schools and the K-12 assistant principal at Beatty schools; and Scott Shakespeare.

These leaders held community meetings and conducted and analyzed surveys of parents, teachers and students, according to Fossett.

The leaders “worked with local community leaders, both in public support organizations and community institutions like churches and clubs to make sure everyone was heard and on board. The work of these four leaders was both extensive and thorough.”

In recent months, changing Pahrump’s schools to a four-day week has not been brought forward during a school board meeting.

Mark Owens, member of the board of trustees in Pahrump, said in an email that “I would say it’s premature to make a comment on this subject since it has not been placed on the Board of Trustees agenda. It will take a lot of community input to even consider a four-day week at this time.”

Data on four-day schools

More than two dozen states in the U.S. have at least one school district that has implemented a four-day-school schedule, according to data in a report authored by Shakespeare. The data’s source was from a report by Georgia Heyward named “What Do We Actually Know About the Four-Day School Week?” in the Center on Reinventing Public Education in 2018.

In Heyward’s report, it was noted that approximately 550 school districts use a four-day schedule. Most of that data is from 2018 in the report, though some of the data collected was from previous years for certain states.

According to data from the Nevada Department of Education, during the 2018-19 school year, 13 of Nevada’s 17 school districts had implemented a four-day-school schedule, though not all schools in those 13 districts are on a four-day schedule.

Shakespeare highlighted data from the state of Colorado, where more than 100 school districts had schools with four-day weeks. That equates to roughly 71 percent of the 178 school districts in Colorado.

According to a July 2018 report named “The Four-Day School Week Information Manual” by the Colorado Department of Education Office of Field Services, in the 2002-2003 school year, 49 school districts in Colorado were on a four-day school weeks. That grew to over 100 by the 2018-2019 school year.

In that report on a section named “Popularity,” it was stated that “among districts which have implemented the concept, the practice of the four-day week is very popular among students, parents, and teachers. Satisfaction surveys indicate that 80% – 90% of community members favor continuing the four-day week in districts which have been on the schedule for several years.”

The section continued: “The opposition seems to come from members of the community not directly associated with the school, and from those who feel that school employees should work a traditional week.”

Also in the “Four-Day School Week Information Manual,” it was stated that the districts that tend to implement a four-day schedule tend to be “rural and sparsely populated.”

“Many have great distances for students to travel with long bus routes,” the report stated. “Many also have major distances to travel to athletic events, as they participate in differing sports, conferences, and leagues. The majority of the four-day districts conduct no classes on Friday.”

In the summary and conclusions section of the report, it was stated that “the four-day week presents only one interesting method of utilizing time in ways other than the traditional. For many communities, it meets a need for efficiency. These communities tend to be small and rural in nature. Probably, these communities also have a larger percentage of traditional families with at least one parent not working outside the home. Many communities have a strong agricultural base with a tradition of family farms.”

Local reaction

In a public comment period prior to the passage of the four-day school schedule change in Beatty and Amargosa Valley, several teachers and others put in their opinion to the possibility of changing to the four-day week.

Aimee Senior, a fourth grade teacher at Beatty Elementary School spoke in support of the switch to a four-day schedule during a March 27, 2019 school board meeting.

Senior was noted in the minutes of that meeting giving in support of the effort “because she is in a combined classroom and cannot get both fourth grade and fifth-grade curriculum in one day. The extra time would be like gaining a math lesson every day for both fourth and fifth grades. She stated there would also be more time to get reading in during the day.”

Teachers and principals would work extended hours during the four days, according to James Fossett.

Diane George, who identified herself as a kindergarten teacher in Amargosa Valley, also stated she was in favor of the effort to move to a four-day school week.

George stated the hour and a few minutes of extra time would give her more quality time with the children and improve attendance. She stated “attendance has been down and a lot of it is due to parents taking their kids shopping and they think nothing of taking their kids out of school for a day for shopping because they are in a rural district.”

Fannin also spoke at the March 27 school board meeting. During the meeting, Fannin stated “that research indicates benefits in terms of lower absenteeism with staff and students with a four-day week.”

In the minutes of that meeting, Fannin was also noted saying that “the most important was retention and recruitment of teachers.”

He (Fannin) noted there has never been a year that they haven’t had two to three new teachers and the staff that have been there 20-25 years indicated it’s almost a revolving door there. He stated he currently has a great staff and a four-day week would help retention, the minutes of the school board’s March 27 meeting stated.

Ruby Salguero, parent of a Pre-K student in Amargosa Valley, spoke out against the initiative at the school board meeting.

In the minutes, Salguero was noted saying the “the doctors in Amargosa are only there on Wednesdays, so they are already losing a day.” She noted most of the parents work at the dairy and not all parents can get Fridays off, so they would have to pay out of pocket for child care on Fridays. She also wondered how the kindergartners can continue in a longer day without a nap.

Savings for Nye school district

Jim Fossett noted that the district would save money with the switch to a four-day week.

“There is expected savings of about 20% on buses (fuel costs), food not being served, and buildings being closed (utilities),” Fossett said in an email. “Studies show that between 2% and 4% of total budget is a reasonable range of savings.”

Fossett also said that “bus drivers will get one day less work, but since northern schools struggle to hire bus driver/custodians, it is likely that the district will increase their custodial hours to keep their hours the same.

“Those who work in the kitchens will have one day a week less, but the largest group, paraprofessionals, will simply be putting in the same hours in a four-day week.”

“Teachers and principals will work extended hours, and information about that is already written into their contracts for 4-day-week schools,” Fossett said.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com

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