IN January the Alamosa Board of Education is scheduled to meet and vote on whether the school district will begin planning for a four-day school week as soon as the 2023-24 academic year.

It’s a move that feels more likely than not when you factor in the support from the teachers union and the fact every other school district in the San Luis Valley is in class for four, rather than the traditional five, days a week.

In fact, Colorado is one of the leading states for school districts shifting to a four-day school week, but statistics need context. Of the 178 school districts in Colorado, 114 are on a 4-day school week and most of those are in the rural parts of the state, although Pueblo School District 60 and Brighton Schools have also made the transition.

Here’s the other part of the statistic: The school districts on a four-day school week represent approximately 13 percent of the entire K-12 student population in the state. It speaks to the rural nature of four-day school adoption.

So how’d we get here?

Back in April, the Alamosa School District with school board backing entered into a MOU with the Alamosa Education Association to study a four-day school week. There had been plenty of behind-the-scenes discussions prior among teachers and administrators about the four-day week, particularly as Valley schools began shifting that way earlier in the decade.

The Alamosa Education Association negotiates on behalf of teachers and other school district employees and, as such, carries significant influence on the direction of the schools. Prior to the MOU, it issued a survey to parents and teachers (see results here) and found a majority of support for the four-day school week among survey takers. The survey has been questioned for its participation rate but the findings gave momentum to getting an MOU in place.

The MOU called for a broad committee of teachers, administrators and community members to study the four-day week option. Those study sessions, including visits from schools both in the Valley and outside the Valley, have been happening throughout the fall 2022 semester.

Then on Dec. 8 the committee made a presentation on its findings to the school board. There was some but not a lot of participation from community members at the initial presentation, lending more credence to the notion that Alamosa is headed to a four-day school week.

What are the next steps?

There’s the school board meeting on Jan. 5, where a vote is expected. If there’s a green light from the school board, then there is a series of steps the school district would need to take from January into the spring to get itself in a position to implement the four-day school week for the next school year.

The Valley Pod logo


Our episode with Myra Manzanares and Kathy West of the Alamosa Education Association

In this episode  Jones and Murillo talk more about the homework the district has done around a four-day school week and the upcoming vote by the school board.

Not necessarily in order, here at least three steps that would need to occur:

  • The school district would negotiate its next contract with its teachers union over the length of the school day and which four days in the week students would attend school. Brighton School District, for example, operates on a Tuesday-through-Friday schedule but the fact all the Valley schools are in session Monday-through-Thursday lends support for Alamosa to follow along. It’s typical for the school district and the Alamosa Education Association to negotiate a new contract ahead of each year, so that’s nothing new. Except the next negotiation would involve a four-day school week and everything from teacher hours to expectations of teachers on Fridays or weekday Alamosa takes off would be on the table. A four-day school week requires the same number of instructional hours by the state. Those hours would have to be completed in fewer days, generally meaning longer school days for students although weeks can be added to the school year, making it longer.
  • The school district has a calendar committee which before each school year establishes the next academic year’s calendar that includes when the new school year begins and ends, and how the year is built around the holidays. The four-day school week adds new nuances to creating the next school year calendar. Alamosa generally aligns itself to the academic year of Adams State and also has tried to align its high school class bell schedule to Adams State so that students can take concurrent and dual enrollment courses at Adams. It can be a messy process and not everything always lines up. The calendar committee would have to work its magic on a four-day week and get it done before the end of the spring semester so everyone knows what the summer break looks like.
  • Then there’s the application to the state department of education. The Alamosa School District would need to submit an application to transition to a four-day school week no later than May 2023 to get approval for the next academic year.

What’s been the reaction so far?

Concerns have been raised around daycare, Fridays and life of the three-day weekend, child nutrition on the weekday off, impact on employers and employees, idle teens and pre-teens. City agencies like parks and recreation are sending a signal that they don’t have the staff capacity to do more. The committee points to organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs as outlets that might be able to assist and get involved even more than they already are. 

Annette Sanchez, a member of the four-day week study committee, told the school board the committee hasn’t come up with much to argue against a four-day school week from a school perspective. “In those committee meetings we had several other districts come and talk about when they implemented it and not a single one of them had anything negative thing to say about the four-day week. Centauri, Monte Vista, District 60, I believe, they had nothing but positive things to say. They did say they are gonna be some bumps that we’ll need to figure out on our own as a district that first year.”

“If there is an increase in crime that’s a community issue, it’s not just a school issue. As a community we would have to address that, but I don’t think that’s an issue.”

“I hope that the board recognizes the community and the majority of the staff are in favor of the four-day week, and I also believe if it’s not implemented I think it would be very detrimental to this community if it’s not implemented in Alamosa School District.”

Gina Ponce, high school foreign language teacher, shared other thoughts on the impact on the district’s Spanish-speaking families: 

“You sent out a survey to Spanish speaking parents, but you didn’t ask them ‘Do you have daycare for Fridays?’ You didn’t ask them some really good questions. I encourage you … because I don’t think they understand the ramifications. A lot of them work. Who’s gonna take care of their kids on Friday?” 

“There are so many unanswered questions. You said there are gonna be bumps in the road. Well, what kind of bumps? Are we gonna eliminate two weeks out of the summertime? What are those bumps and how is this gonna affect us?”

How is the Alamosa School District doing overall academically?

The barometer is the Colorado Department of Education’s Official Performance Ratings based on state testing that occurs each year. The state released its 2022 ratings earlier in December. 

There were two years – 2020 and 2021 – during COVID when the state didn’t test because of the academic transitions of the pandemic. Schools were tested again in 2022 and the Alamosa School District is officially Accredited with Improvement Plan: Low Participation. 

For the state that means the school district is meeting expectations on some performance metrics, but not meeting or only approaching expectations on other performance areas.

Alamosa High School scores in the highest performance categories both in comparison to other high schools in Colorado and in comparison to Alamosa’s middle and higher elementary school grades which are also tested.

Ortega Middle School is on a Turnaround Plan rating, the lowest rating given by the state for schools that are among the lowest performing in the state. In this situation the state provides support and oversight until the school scores improve. Principal Amy Ortega recognized the difficulty of the 2021-22 academic year and did a reorganization and restructuring of the middle school setting for this academic year as Ortega Middle works to move the needle with the state performance rating. 

Alamosa Elementary School for grades 3 through 5, and the ages when students begin taking the state exams, is on a Priority Improvement Plan. These are schools identified by the state as low performing, meaning that they are not meeting or are only approaching expectations on most of the state’s performance metrics. In these cases the state also provides support until the schools improve.

The Upshot:

The last two years have brought a host of changes and transitions to the Alamosa School District, including a new superintendent in Diana Jones who replaced Rob Alejo, and new school board members who found their way through the COVID pandemic.

Jones upon her arrival at the start of last school year set in motion a strategic action plan and what she and Assistant Superintendent Luis Murillo call a “profile of a graduate.” Those pieces are intended to help the school district remain on course even through a transition to a four-day school week.

If you have comments to share on the four-day school it’s not too late. Just show up at the school board meeting Jan. 5 at Alamosa High School and let the school board know your thoughts.

While it’s true the other school districts in the San Luis Valley are on a four-day week, it’s also true that because Alamosa is the largest school district, and by far, and that Alamosa is where most people work regardless of where they live in the Valley, the move for Alamosa to a four-day school is big and would impact the entire Valley and its way of life.



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