ELKO – Two-thirds to three-quarters of students, parents and staff favor switching to a four-day week at Elko and Spring Creek schools, according to survey results presented to the school board.
Now it will be up to board members to decide whether to make the move at Elko County’s larger schools. Most smaller ones have already changed their calendars following board approval.
Superintendent C.J. Anderson presented the results that listed 67% approval from school staff, 70% approval from parents and 74% approval from students.
Among students, support was highest at Elko High (80%) and lowest at Spring Creek High (64%).
Among parents, support was highest at Spring Creek Middle School and Liberty Peak Elementary (76%) and lowest at Elko elementary and middle schools (63-68%).
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Among staff, support was above 80% at Spring Creek Middle School, Flag View Intermediate School, and Southside and Spring Creek elementary schools. Support was lowest at Spring Creek High School (57%) and among district staff not affiliated with a particular school (34%).
Opposition to the plan was minimal, with more people in each group undecided than opposed to switching. A total of 18% of staff voted no, 11% of parents and 8% of students.
Anderson said survey participation from staff was 75%, from students 65% and from parents 29%.
Comments received from the survey have been collated by category and response, and posted online in Google documents.
“They are very informative, but as you can imagine the range of responses is quite stark,” Anderson told the board.
He said the final decision lies entirely with board members, although they may appoint a superintendent’s advisory committee to make a recommendation, as was done prior to Wells Combined School converting. The panel could include teachers and support staff.
“Whether we say yes, we recommend moving forward with four-day for all of Elko and Spring Creek or for the whole district — whatever the advisory committee says, you as a board still get to decide to uphold or overturn the recommendation,” Anderson said.
Wells originally requested a four-day week back in 2011, with a survey conducted by the school indicating 87% of community members and 59% of parents were in support. The school board denied its request that year and again in 2012. After a third try in 2018 the board unanimously approved it.
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Carlin, West Wendover and Jackpot schools soon followed. Owyhee Combined School on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, the smallest school in the district, remains on a five-day week.
A proposal to add Spring Creek to the four-day calendar surfaced early in 2020 after a parent organization sent out surveys and found 78% approval. After a lengthy discussion at that time, the school board decided to appoint a superintendent’s advisory committee to look further into the issue.
Then the pandemic hit.
Supporters began making another strong push last summer, circulating online petitions seeking a change by the start of the school year. School officials said any change would not be possible until next school year, and they began circulating their own survey to students, parents and staff in September.
Prior to discussing the item on Nov. 22 the board heard public comment that included opposition to the switch from Sarah Sanders, a parent who is also a counselor at Spring Creek High School.
Sanders said she felt that not enough information was being shared, and asked why the district would want to switch.
“Yes, I love three-day weekends … but the tradeoff of longer days every day for me and my kids, I just don’t think that’s worth it,” she wrote in a letter that was read by trustee Matt McCarty.
Sanders said the decision should be based on what’s best for schools and students. She said studies in other states have shown that “students in four-day schools have significantly lower achievement scores in math and in reading, deficits which grow exponentially from year to year in a four-day system.”
After hearing the presentation from Anderson, trustee Jeff Durham suggested postponing action until their second meeting in January. Newly elected trustees Brooke Ballard and Adriana Lara will be seated on the board by then.
Meanwhile, Anderson suggested board members and anyone else interested in the issue review the survey results and comments that have been posted online by the district.