Good morning and happy Labor Day to workers of all stripes! We’ve got a small-but-mighty Sunriser for you on this hot, hot holiday Monday (100 degrees forecast in Denver and 101 in Fort Morgan!).
In other words, it’s the perfect time for Jason Blevins to help you make your ski-pass decision. Plus, our staff will relay what we learned investigating four-day school weeks and our slate of opinion writers tackle the holiday-appropriate topics of wage reform, employee rights and climate change.
Our anniversary party is this Thursday and it’s not too late to join in the fun at Wynkoop Brewing Company. Members, look in your email for the link to your free tickets, and nonmembers can stop by for $10 (or for free if you become a member for $5/month!). Details on the party here.
OK, let’s sharpen these edges and think cool thoughts, shall we?
AARP is urging Colorado lawmakers to cut prescription drug prices. Coloradans shouldn’t have to choose between buying medication and buying food for our families. Learn more at aarp.org/rx.
The Latest from The Sun
The Pallavicini chairlift carries skiers and snowboarders up the mountain at Arapahoe Basin winds its way up to the Continental Divide. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
Here’s one thing you don’t want to deal with this winter: Walk-up lift ticket prices. But Colorado is the epicenter in the ski-pass war, where good planners can get their season’s fill for a (relative) bargain.
More from The Sun
- The Colorado Securities Board is getting its own lawyer to investigate the quick hiring of its new commissioner. Tamara Chuang untangles the latest move in this saga.
- A Colorado lawmaker has agreed to stop blocking people on social media after being sued. It was a victory for the ACLU, but they were hoping for a broader federal ruling to once and for all bar public officials from blocking constituents. Jesse Paul has the whole story (including how much these cases are costing taxpayers).
>> WHAT WE LEARNED
Colorado Sun reporters spent several weeks exploring the reasons so many school districts in the state have switched to a four-day week, and its effect on students, teachers and families.
This kind of dedicated reporting is only possible through support from readers like you. To help us make more journalism in Colorado, become a member today for as little as $5/month.
We wrote three stories examining the situation:
- Colorado now has more school districts on four-day weeks than any place in the nation — with little research on the benefits
- In mostly rural Colorado, the four-day school week has taken hold. But what do communities do with “Fifth Day”?
- Colorado made kindergarten a priority. But when it comes to four-day school weeks, lawmakers don’t see a problem.
Here are the highlights and big takeaways from our series…
Colorado leads the nation in the number of districts on a four-day week
- This fall, 111 out of 178 school districts in Colorado go to school four days instead of five. Nationwide, there are about 600 districts that have gone to a four-day instruction schedule.
- Most are rural, but more urban districts in Brighton and Pueblo also have switched. Brighton, called 27J, is the largest in the country to drop a day. It has 19,000 students and 26 schools.
- The trend is not slowing. In the last four years, 27 Colorado districts have switched all or some of their schools to four-day weeks. The number has doubled since 2005.
School districts cite budget constraints, teacher recruitment and way of life
Districts looking for savings in transportation or building costs, like air conditioning and heat, have made the switch.
Several said dropping the fifth instruction day helps schools that can’t afford to compete on salary to recruit teachers.
Most districts added time to the school day to reach the required number of instruction hours, but Leadville is adding days to the school calendar.
But how does it affect academics?
The research is limited and inconclusive.
- A 2015 study of Colorado schools, published in the journal Education and Finance Policy, found four-day weeks have a positive impact on student achievement, noting slightly higher scores in math and reading.
- But a 2019 report from Oregon State University found that four-day weeks have “detrimental effects” on the achievement of Oregon students. The study was different from the Colorado research because it looked not at schools’ average test scores, but the scores of individual students. It found that both boys and girls saw math and reading scores drop on standardized tests, but that boys’ scores dropped more.
- A Colorado Sun analysis found four-day schools are more likely to have higher percentages of children who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Also, scores on standardized tests are slightly lower on average than five-day schools.
How are communities using the “Fifth Day”?
As more Colorado districts adopt the four-day school week, the extra weekday out of the classroom presents both challenges and opportunities for innovation.
Here are some examples:
- Having Mondays off gives kids in the Lone Star School District who compete in rodeo time to catch up on chores and homework. (Several students from the small but high-achieving district in northeast Colorado are in college on full-ride rodeo scholarships.)
- Many kids in the East Grand School District, which includes Winter Park, don’t have the resources to ski on days off. So the district used a Donnell-Kay Foundation grant to create a Fifth Day program that helps kids pursue their specific interests in creative ways.
- Students in West Grand, South Routt County and North Park districts attend Colorado AeroLab on the fifth day, where they explore with robots and 3-D printers and computer design.
- Community programs, like 4-H, and work on family farms can help keep kids in some rural areas busy. In places like Swink, Thursday is the new Friday night, which means activities like movie night and game night.
What about the politics?
The broad, bipartisan coalition that emerged in support of Gov. Jared Polis’ push this year to fund full-day kindergarten provides a telling counterpoint to the politics of four-day school weeks: No such coalition exists calling for a return to a five-day week.
- Not only is the four-day week not a priority to be fixed at the state Capitol, there isn’t even broad consensus that it’s a problem.
- “When we have listening tours, nobody’s complaining,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, a Durango Democrat and former teacher who chairs the House Education Committee. McLachlan says it’s time for Colorado to do a comprehensive study of its own now that a majority of districts have made the switch. “What suffers? I think something suffers, and it may be something that’s completely irrelevant and it may be something major.”
Thoughts? Comments? Email email@example.com.
From the Opinion Page
- Columnist Diane Carman on how teen climate activist Greta Thunberg’s tactics are spreading to Colorado: “Emi Cooper, Greta Thunberg – our best hope for the future … if there is one”
- Mario Nicolais looks at the lonely stand within the Colorado GOP Cynthia Coffman waged for LGBTQ equality: “More Republicans are concluding that equality is a political hill worth dying on”
- Theo E.J. Wilson on the voice filling the void of honest black broadcasting in Denver: “Brother Jeff has created a gathering place for Denver’s African-American community”
- Seattle Fish Company CEO James Iacino: “Overhaul wage and hour rules to protect Coloradans’ most important resource: their time”
- University of Oregon associate law professor Elizabeth C. Tippett brings us this column via The Conversation: “How your employer uses perks like wellness programs, phones and free food to control your life”
- Brien Webster and Katie Delorenzo of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers: “It’s time to speak up for our wildlife corridors and for our forests”
That’s it for our Labor Day mini-Sunriser.
Don’t forget to pick up your tickets for the party on Thursday! We hope to you see you there.
See you back here on Wednesday!