The Ketchikan School District is taking the first step toward considering a four-day school week for the high school and middle school. In January, the School Board gave the district the green light to look into possible benefits of a Monday through Thursday week. The school district calendar committee met this Tuesday evening to talk about the idea.
One of the main reasons a four-day week is even a consideration is because of all of the school days students miss when they travel to compete in sports or other activities. In fact, while the calendar committee was meeting, the Kayhi basketball teams were getting ready for a Wednesday-Saturday tournament in Juneau.
“Would [a Monday through Thursday week] improve student learning and instructional time?” School District Human Resources Director Rick Rafter asked at the calender committee meeting.
Rafter emphasized that no decision has been made yet. A decision like this is going to take a lot of thought and discussion.
“If it’s something that would be so unpopular and have so many problems in making it work, there’s no sense spinning your wheels on it,” he said.
But like the School Board, the rest of the calendar committee members seemed interested in what benefits a four-day week might bring. Rafter said Kayhi Principal Sam Nelson told him the absence of traveling students affects the rest of the class.
“When they’re gone, it also disrupts the days for everybody else. Especially in a lot of classes that are driven by instruction more than by project,” Rafter said.
The calendar committee talked about some of the critical questions the district would have to explore in terms of a four-day week: How many students participate in activities that travel to compete? How would this affect students who work after school? How would it effect the class schedule? What about after school activities?
The educators on the calendar committee already have heard a lot of negative feedback from people they’ve talked to about the four-day week.
But there are possible benefits that make them want to seriously consider this idea.
Bob McClory, a guidance counselor at Kayhi and member of the calendar committee, says it might help with teacher absences.
“I’ve started doing an analysis of staff absentees, and Fridays are by far the largest number of absentees among staff members, consistently throughout the week,” he said.
He said maybe a four day week could improve education by having more qualified teachers in the classroom on a more consistent basis.
The committee plans to bring up the four-day week idea at a school district staff meeting in April or May. Then, in September, committees made specifically to explore this idea will be put together. One at the high school and one at the middle school. If a four-day week were to be implemented, the earliest start date would be fall of 2015.