THORNTON, Colo. (KDVR) — School starts next week for 27J Schools in Brighton, Thornton and Commerce City, and this will be the fourth school year with a four-day school week.
The district switched to a four-day week in 2018 after a failed mill levy override election. The superintendent says the district needed a way to recruit teachers.
“On average, we pay about $10,000 less than our neighboring school districts, so we have to incentivize them to come work for us, and we use the four-day week to do that,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Fiedler.
This week, about 200 teachers who are new to 27J schools are attending orientation in Thornton.
Elibeth Arce is one of the teachers who left another metro district to go to 27J this year. She says she was attracted by the mixture of people and the four-day week.
“I think that’s very critical as a teacher to be able to answer all of the questions our parents have, to be better prepared for our students,” Arce said.
The 27J School District has longer school days to get in all the required school hours, and the district offers childcare for $30 a day on Mondays, which is the day off.
The superintendent says the first year the district saved $600,000 to $700,000 in fuel costs, but he says that was not the driving force for the change.
Plus, as it turns out, the four-day schedule worked well during the pandemic.
“It served us well pre-COVID. It served us well during the pandemic because we already had a day for teachers to prepare,” Fiedler said.
According to the Colorado Department of Education, 114 out of the 178 school districts in Colorado use a four-day schedule.
Unlike 27J Schools, most are in rural and sparsely populated areas where students must travel long distances to get to school.
Families in 27J say they have made the adjustment.
“We really do like it. I think my kids have embraced it,” said Jennifer Federocko, a district mother.
However, she said the schedule did pose some new challenges — like the need for childcare on Mondays and longer school days.
A survey showed that 78% of families and staff viewed the four-day week schedule favorably.
“I don’t see us going back. We’ve had great return on our graduation rates. We’ve seen those increase as we went to the four-day week,” the superintendent said.