Junior high students walk the hallways of Simla Junior High at Big Sandy School Monday, February 25, 2019. (Mark Reis, Special to The Colorado Sun)

While many children across Colorado are heading to school on Monday mornings, siblings Angelica and Paul Gallegos of Brighton are on their way to Barr Lake State Park’s Nature Center to volunteer.

“Every time we go, we all learn something different, something new, and I just think it’s awesome that I’m able to give my kids an opportunity to go out and learn something, try something outside,” said their mother, Crystal Gallegos.

Angelica, 13, and Paul, 9, have been volunteering once a week at the state park since last August, when the Brighton-based District 27J transitioned to a four-day school week.

As more Colorado school districts cut back to just four days a week in the face of financial pressures, many parents are looking for ways to fill that fifth day — they hope with meaningful learning outside the classroom. Organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs have stepped in to fill the gap, and so have new nonprofits and business partnerships that provide everything from workplace learning to gardening and robotics classes.

This school year, state data shows 104 of Colorado’s 178 school districts — serving more than 80,000 students — operated on four-day weeks, up from just 39 in 2000. In fact, Colorado has the highest proportion of school districts operating on four-day weeks in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Provided by the Colorado School Finance Project.

Read more at chakbeat.org.