The Colorado Department of Education approved the application this month, which came weeks after unanimous approval from the district's board of education and overwhelming support from teachers. Students will attend school Tuesday through Friday and will be off every Monday. Parents can opt to drop their children attending grades K-5 at a district-run daycare on Monday, but no care will be provided for older students. All charter schools within the district will maintain a traditional five-day week schedule except for Eagle Ridge Academy.
“I realize this will be a significant change for our students, their families, and the communities we are so fortunate to serve, but our district can no longer be expected to do more with less financial resources,” said 27J Superintendent Chris Fiedler in a statement. “We are one hundred percent committed to providing our students with the necessary skills and competencies that will enable a future far beyond graduation. To that end, I believe it is in our students’ best interest to provide high quality, engaged teachers using 21st Century tools for learning four days a week rather than not have them five days a week.”
Teacher recruitment, retention and development were the top reasons for the district's decision, given that it does not have the resources to adequately compensate teachers, Fiedler says. The district has the lowest starting pay for first-time educators and has the lowest average teacher salary of any district in the metro. The decision came on the heels of a failed $12 million mill levy override election in November, which was narrowly defeated by 52 percent of voters.
Westword dedicated its March 8 edition to the complex web of issues that motivated Fiedler's decision even in the face of significant community pushback. Read the full story here.
A two-pronged effort is under way to fully fund public education in Colorado. A ballot petition is making the rounds that would pour an estimated $1.6 billion back into the state education budget for full-day kindergarten and to increase district funding. If enough valid signatures are gathered, then voters can cast their votes at the ballot box on Initiative Number 93 this November. Second, a bill is floating around at the Capitol to restructure education spending. A hearing is scheduled for HB 1232 at 1:30 p.m. on April 2 in the House Education Committee.