Fiscal woes have Colorado schools mulling shorter week
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” The prospect of shrinking state funds as lawmakers scramble to cover shortfalls is leading school districts across Colorado to consider going to four-day weeks to cut costs.
The districts studying the costs and benefits of lopping a day off include some of the state’s largest: Douglas County, Mesa County and Pueblo District 70.
School officials are juggling possible cost savings with concerns from parents who would have to find day care for their children.
“Districts are tightening their belts and getting creative,” said Ken Turner, deputy commissioner of the Colorado Department of Education.
Districts are looking at possibly paring 20 percent from some expenses by shortening the school week. The Elizabeth school district sees a four-day week as a way to keep veteran teachers from leaving for higher-paying jobs in bigger districts.
Pueblo District 70 Superintendent Dan Lere said he’s “sitting right on the fence” on the question of whether to go to four days. At 8,000 students, his district is one of the largest to consider the move. He needs to shave $4.5 million from a $60 million budget.
Douglas County, the state’s third-largest district with 58,000 students, wants to trim another $37 million in two years from its $450 million budget. The district is studying the four-day week as one potential savings.
Mesa County Valley District 51, with more than 22,000 students, is looking at a possible $5 million gap in its $158 million budget for next year. The district is far from any decision, but spokesman Jeff Kirtland said preliminary estimates show a four-day week could save $1.1 million, primarily in transportation.
Since the state officially sanctioned it in 1980, the four-day week has been more popular in smaller districts such as Elbert, which has 275 students. An extra day off slashes bus route and lunch costs and gives students in sports or other activities another day to make three- or four-hour drives to competitions.
The largest district on the four-day plan this year is East Grand 2 in Grand County, with 1,330 students, according to the Department of Education.
Some parents in forums in the Elizabeth school district have been skeptical about the change.
“Lots of us live here because we couldn’t afford homes in Douglas County,” said Jayna Kinnamon. “I have three kids, and I’d pay $30 each for that extra day of care. That’s $3,240 for me for the school year. Is this worth that?”
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