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3/12/2013 11:26:00 AM
Is Williams Unified School District's four day school week working?
Williams Unified District Governing Board members consider extending schedule to five-day week after losing grant for after school program

Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

After reviewing extensive district data, Williams Unified School District (WUSD) Governing Board members weighed their options regarding changing the school schedule during their March 7 retreat.

The district currently operates on a four-day schedule. The 21st Century grant, which provides after school and Friday programs for students, expires May 22. Without the grant, the district is deciding whether to stay on the four-day schedule or switch to a four and a half or five-day schedule.

WUSD superintendent Rachel Savage discussed the results of a survey that parents took via the district's Connect-Ed automated phone system.

Of the 217 parents who took the survey, 55.76 percent favored staying on the four-day schedule, 30.41 percent supported switching to a five-day schedule, 10.14 percent preferred switching to a four and a half day schedule, and 3.69 percent had no preference.

Of the 39 staff members who responded to the survey, 69.23 percent favored staying on the four-day schedule, 20.51 percent supported switching to a five-day schedule and 10.26 percent preferred switching to a four and a half day schedule.

During the phone call, Savage also reminded parents of the March 12 community forum to address the issue.

"I know that a number is a number. There are a lot of opinions, there's a lot of feelings, there's a lot of emotion, there's a lot of anecdotal circumstances that people want to express that you just simply can't do by pushing a number," Savage said. "But this is a piece to the pie. It kind of gives you a quick glimpse."

WUSD Business Manager Melissa Ellico said the four-day schedule has actually cost the district more money, rather than save it money, which was the original reason for the switch. The reason for the higher costs is separate release times. The elementary school gets out at 3 p.m. and the middle school gets out at 4 p.m. This requires school buses to run twice in the afternoons.

"I can't believe somebody didn't look at these numbers and say, 'geez, this is going to cost a lot of money,'" board member Thomas Ross said. "It doesn't matter what we do with the four-day, five-day, that bus thing has to change, because that's where all of your money is being spent."

If the district decides to coordinate the release times, the elementary school children would stay an hour longer.

"If we let everybody out at the same time that eliminates the after school need," Savage said. At the board's last meeting, members discussed how this option would allow younger children to ride the bus home with older siblings.

If the district stays on a four-day schedule without providing a Friday program, officials would turn out the lights and turn down the heat to reduce costs. The district could also use one Friday per month for professional development.

WUSD has made several changes in the past few years, including switching from a four and a half day schedule to a four-day schedule and using a block schedule for some time at the high school. To examine the effects of these changes, Ellico presented data on attendance, enrollment and instructional hours. She also estimated the cost of the district running a Friday program internally. With those results in mind, board members reached different conclusions regarding the school schedule.

"You don't see overwhelming statistical evidence as far as test scores and academic stuff to keep us on a four-day. I don't see the same type of thing to move us off of it," Board President David Nenne said. "We can potentially save a fair amount of money from what we're spending now by doing stuff with the bus schedule and shutting the buildings down completely (on Fridays)."

That cost savings could go toward expanding the science program or bringing back the music program, he said.

School board member Bud Parenteau disagreed, arguing that students benefit from five days in the classroom.

"Nothing that's been shown here today shows that the kids are going to get a better education and start improving on a four-day as opposed to a five-day. And they will on a five-day," Parenteau said. "The bottom line is, yes it's going to cost a little bit more to go to a five-day, but I think it's worth the investment."

Ross agreed with Parenteau.

"Yeah (students are) doing better (academically), how much better could they be doing?" Ross said. "And if we're going to stay on a four-day thing, how are we going to find time for a music class or to do extra things like that?"

Nenne proposed staying on a four-day schedule for another year to determine if it is academically effective before switching to a five-day schedule.

"If you change too many things and you evaluate your outcome, which one of those things that you changed is what produced the outcome?" Nenne said.

Savage said she could see both sides.

"Either way we're gambling. We're risking gains that we're not going to see and we're risking the gains that we might see," she said.

The board members could not take any action on the issue at the retreat. They also said they need to consider results from the community forum before reaching a decision.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, March 16, 2013
Article comment by: Be nice to Teachers,

That forum was frustrating as Rachel likes to hear herself speak so much that there was a few minutes for input. Kids come first. Teachers work non-stop to ensure this quit bashing them! The override passed so where is the extra money coming from? The district budget was supposed to be the same and yet we can afford Rachel's offer of CCC building for 40k a year, the teacher to staff that, 2 marquees, music/band, art, AND a 5-day-week? If we have to pick and choose keep it 4 and give the kids some electives! It's about them, right? We are used to the 4-day now and WUSD looks less credible every time they change it. If there is so much money pay for after school too Rachel. Where is it all coming from? Why did she not re-apply for the grant? Bless those teachers as they all looked very afraid to speak. I didn't hear collaboration I heard dictatorship.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: I agree with 5 days

Grand Canyon schools is having the same discussions and for all it's worth, I believe we would be supporting the education of our children if we went back to a 5 day school week. I know budgets have to be looked at but cutting the classroom time is not the answer. I do agree that if everyone was coming to school at the same time and leaving at the same time that would be a significant savings of employee cost, gas cost, and wear and tear on the buses. I am not sure why we are doing away with items at these schools that are obvious for achievement. 5 days a week is essential to meet the core standards set by the department of education and music and art are essential to our children's creative and logical thinking skills. It is frustrating that the Department of Education even allows the choice of cutting classroom time. I do hope Arizona Dept. of Ed. get their act together, start making significant changes in order for our children to succeed. We are far behind other states in education which should be a top priority. Education is the key to stopping what's ailing this country: violence, crimes, drug addiction, and homelessness and supports Independence and Intelligence to make appropriate decisions in life.

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Article comment by: john aguilar

How many of you posters really know our teachers and our school? Most of our teachers already work 5-6 days a week. Go by the school on a Friday or Saturday and you will see our teachers preparing lesson plans or taking classes to further thier proffessional development which goes right back to the kids. I talked to one of the board members who told me we get reimbursed for mileage on our bus routes so transportation cost us very little. As in any proffession not every teacher is the greatest but I know a lot of these teachers and most of them are dedicated to thier jobs and want the best education for our children. I went to the forum and only a few people talked but I blame that on our super who wanted to take over the show and talked way to long and didn't give the audience a chance to give thier opinion. I thought it was suppose to be a public forum and it turned out to be her forum to give her opinion.

Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Article comment by: Lettit Bee

As a long-time resident of Williams, I am quite tired of seeing this school district change for the sake of change. It seems like every time we get a new team of administrators, they feel the need to make their mark and build their resumes by changing the district in some superficial way. The district originally went to the 4-day week just because the last administration was showing that they “did something”. Well now the community has adapted to the 4 day schedule and here comes a new team to throw a wrench into the works. How about we stop messing with the staff and students’ lives and focus on ensuring the kids are getting the best educational opportunities they have in the time allotted? That includes, ensuring that there is a cracker-jack staff of teachers that the teachers and staff have all of the up-to-date equipment , supplies and programs needed to learn/teach in today’s high-tech world and that the students and staff have the knowledge that the administrators are there to support them fully and for the long run.

Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Article comment by: I find it funny

You good sir are definitely not scientifically minded nor busniness minded.

. Letting the elementary and middle school kids out at the same time (like they used to) will SAVE money. Simple business math that was probably covered on Friday when the kids were not in school and "florishing" on another 3 day weekend.

Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Article comment by: Jeremiah Sheward

I Find it funny that people are really trying to change so many variables at once, being scientifically minded and business minded i would only change one thing at a time and give each change a while to settle in befor changing something else. Also, consider this Some children will learn and florish when they are taken out of the standard classroom enviroment and a 3 day weekend allows more time to do so.

Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Article comment by: Lets go Bud!!!

Get Williams back on track! Go back to the 5 day a week schedule. Let the middle and elementary kids out at the same time, NO BRAINER! The teachers just want to work 4 days a week and have a 3 day weekend every week. Kids need to be in school, not having Ferris Beulers day off every Friday!!

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