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Four-day school week committee has inaugural meeting

Members of the Four-Day School Week Ad Hoc Committee meet on Jan. 10, 2024.
Riley Board
Members of the Four-Day School Week Ad Hoc Committee meet on Jan. 10, 2024.

A new committee created to explore a possible four-day school week in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District had its first meeting Wednesday.

In December, the Board of Education approved an ad hoc committee to look into the benefits and drawbacks of a four-day school week. Under the chairmanship of board member Jason Tauriainen, the committee will meet over the next several months to discuss the impacts of cutting the school week from five days to four.

Committee members include Tauriainen, other board member Timothy Daugherty, union and association representatives LaDawn Druce, Suzanna Litwiniak and Pete Swanson, and district administrators Nate Crabtree and Tony Graham.

At its first meeting Wednesday, the group opened its discussion about the details of the four-day school week, and divided up research responsibilities among members.

The first question the committee tackled was: does a four day school week mean a four or five day work week for teachers and support staff. Druce said in her experience, teachers always devote a day outside of the teaching schedule to grading and planning.

“I can’t hardly fathom how teachers can not work some part of that fifth day, whether it’s the whole day, a half day, or every other, let’s call it, Friday,” she said. “With a longer school day, which is probably almost obvious, and to work on top of that, I can’t see that you’re not working on contract for some part of that fifth day.”

Tauriainen said his vision is to have teachers work some Fridays, possibly two a month, with flexibility for things like chaperoning trips.

Other members suggested that the committee wait to decide on a model until after conducting research. The union representatives and administrators said no matter what, that decision would need to be clearly spelled out for the purposes of contract negotiations.

In preparation for future discussions, the committee divided up important areas of research, including student outcomes, attendance, cost implications, quality of life, union negotiations and community impact. Members will also study how the four-day school week model functions in other school districts around the country. Tauriainen said its rising popularity is worth investigating.

“This isn’t just a small thing anymore. It’s starting to be widespread, and there’s gotta be a reason for that,” he said. “To use a little sports analogy, in the NFL, if someone has success, every team starts doing it, because it worked.”

The group will release its final report in July, and the group will dissolve. At that point, Tauriainen, if the school board wanted to move forward, it would likely form an official committee to get more information to the public.

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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