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Estacada superintendent recommends four-day school week for 2017-18

Superintendent Marla Stephenson recommended that the Estacada School Board implement a four-day week for the 2017-18 school year, instead of 2016-17 as had she initially planned.

“I support the four-day week, but we’re not yet ready to implement it,” Stephenson said.

She cited further planning for Fridays, when school would not be in session, as the main reason for delaying the switch.

There are several potential uses for Friday, including professional development days for teachers and intervention days for students who are struggling academically.

Stephenson also wants to ensure that there are options for childcare available on Friday.

Stephenson mentioned potentially partnering with the YMCA or Boys and Girls Club to offer programs at an Estacada location on Fridays.

“There are a lot of answers I don’t have completely fleshed out at this point,” she said.

Scott Sullivan, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the district, agreed it wise to delay the switch

“There’s a lot we have to do,” he said. “We want to make this a perfect transition.”

Though Stephenson will hold the four-day week until 2016-17, she recommended one change in the upcoming school year — a common start time.

In a meeting of the Clackamas River Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization on March 7, Stephenson said she would recommend that all schools will begin at 8 a.m.

The high school and middle school would release at 3:15 p.m. and the elementary schools would release at 2:30 p.m.

Currently, classes at high school and middle school begin at 7:30 a.m. Clackamas River Elementary begins at 8:55 a.m., and River Mill Elementary begins at 9 a.m.

“Our high school parents have been asking for this for a while,” she said. “The 7:30 a.m. start is really early for those students.”

During the meeting, Stephenson also cited concerns with high absenteeism on Wednesdays, which will remain an early release day for the 2016-17 school year. School will release at 1 p.m. for all grade levels.

“We just keep seeing lack of attendance on that reduced teaching day,” Stephenson said, noting that 10 percent of the student population is often absent.

She wondered aloud if this was because the day was seen as less valuable learning time, since it was shorter.

Several parents said it is difficult to leave work early in the middle of the week to pick up their children from school and it would be easier to leave earlier on Friday.

An additional concern raised by parents was how students would be affected by being in school for an hour longer once the four-day week begins in 2017-18.

Some parents are concerned that their students would burn out after such a long school day, which would cause their quality of learning to fall. Other parents worried that the longer day would cause their students to miss after-school activities.

Stephenson said she hopes the four-day week will improve student learning and attendance rates.

“It’s about taking advantage of when students are in school and getting more instruction in then,” she said.

She would like to test the four-day week schedule for one to two years and then reassess.

“There’s no point in a four-day week if we don’t see improved attendance and test scores,” she said.