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School board approves committee to research a four-day school week

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meets on Monday, December 4.
Riley Board
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meets on Monday, December 4.

A four-day school week could become a reality for Kenai schools.

On Monday, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education approved a temporary committee to investigate the benefits, challenges and feasibility of a truncated school week.

Board Vice President Jason Tauriainen is behind the push for a four-day week. He worked in the district for 15 years before running for the board, and says his experience working at Nikiski Middle/High School inspired him to research a shortened school week.

“Fridays were just a day when a lot of kids were absent because of activities,” he said. “So it really sort of hampered what teachers could do in the classroom.”

He began researching four-day school weeks in other districts around the country.

“I saw some articles about this and thought it was a good way to help increase attendance during the time when instruction was taking place, and also as a way to potentially save a little bit of money, because the districts that did it, they all saved a little bit of something,” he said. “Sometimes it was a little, sometimes it was a lot, depending on what kind of measures they put in place to reduce expenditures through payroll.”

Four-days school weeks are a reality in 25 states and 900 districts. In states like Colorado and Missouri, a majority of school districts follow a shortened schedule.

Tauriainen said he’s aware of the primary drawback of the short week: parents who work on Fridays and rely on schools for child care. He said a possible solution is bringing in support staff on Fridays.

“Other districts have utilized support staff to work on that day, to have tutoring programs,”

Tauriainen explained. “Teachers would have the option to work on that Friday for a workday. And maybe it wouldn’t be every day of the month, but at least a couple, to be able to do prep time. So that we don’t do a big pay cut for support staff.”

He said a four-day week could possibly involve an extra 45 minutes of instruction time on Monday through Thursday, and possibly an additional week added to the school year. But he said it will be up to the newly founded committee to research what would work best for the district.

The temporary committee will begin meeting soon; it includes two school board members, two district administrators and three union representatives.

“I’m just excited about the opportunity to gather with some colleagues and research this more, and see if this is something that would fit, or is at least a viable option for something that would fit in our district,” Tauriainen said. “And I’m hopeful that we will be able to move forward with that, and then have discussion with parents and students and staff and community and say, “Hey, do we like this? Is this something we want to do?”’

The board approved the four-day school week committee unanimously. The committee will present its findings in July 2024.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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