ELKO – Spring Creek schools will remain on a five-day schedule for now.
The Elko County School Board unanimously agreed Tuesday to assign the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee to research the impact of switching Spring Creek schools to a four-day schedule.
After the information is gathered, the board will revisit the proposal before the 2021-2022 school year.
The decision came after a nearly two-and-a-half-hour discussion that involved input from about two dozen parents, faculty, staff, students and administrators.
About 90 people filled the board room, most standing through the public comment session and board discussion.
In January, Spring Creek area parent organizations surveyed parents whose children attend Liberty Peak Elementary, Sage Elementary, Spring Creek Elementary, Spring Creek High School and Spring Creek Middle School.
Out of the 3,000 surveys sent via email, text, and phone notice, about 1,767 were returned, showing about 78 percent of respondents believed a four-day week was in the best interest of the students.
Parent Daphne Gurley, who presented the findings of the survey to the board, said the intent was to conduct a low-cost poll to find out what the Spring Creek community thought about transitioning from a five-day schedule to a four-day program.
“The goal of the informal survey was to gain feedback from many in the community, as you have seen from Carlin and other communities who have presented similar information,” Gurley said. “[The survey] was from parents to get an indication of what the community was wanting.”
In her presentation, Gurley cited research from larger schools that were in favor of four-day weeks for teacher recruitment, reduced absenteeism, more instructional time, and cost savings.
She also noted the drawbacks of a four-day week, such as difficulties in adjusting for special needs students and low-income families.
The majority of speakers on Tuesday night were parents, teachers or both. They questioned the possible change, citing longer school hours and less time with children after school.
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Some parents had concerns about how the schedule would affect younger children and students with Individual Education Plans and learning disabilities who could have difficulty remaining in school so long each day, and then starting the school week again after three days off.
The quality of education was a worry on the minds of most teachers who spoke, with some stating they would prefer to be with their students all week, and forgo the convenience of an extra day off.
A teacher and parent who supported the change said four-day could reduce teacher burnout. Her own experience with four-day schools “made me a better and happier teacher and mom.”
After public comment, the trustees said they wanted to see some firm data and more unity among the community before approving the switch that could affect more than 2,900 students.
Trustee Brian Zeiszler, who taught at Wells Combined Schools for seven years, said data was necessary because of the difference in the size of the schools that are already on a four-day schedule, and a larger school zone such as Spring Creek.
“It’s a great recruiting tool to get people into outlying areas,” Zeiszler said. “… those comparisons we have to be careful of. That’s why I want to see data and see what it does.”
Having a united front is also essential, said trustee Candace Wines.
“If the community as a whole is not behind it, it won’t work,” Wines said. “From what I’ve heard tonight, it doesn’t sound like the community is quite there yet.”
“Whether it can work for Spring Creek or not, I don’t know,” Wines continued, “because you already have more challenges, but I think you need to come together as a community if you want this to work.”
Wines encouraged the Spring Creek community to talk with four-day participants to gain more perspective of the issue “because people I’ve talked to absolutely love it.”
Board President Teresa Dastrup, who met with students and faculty at Spring Creek High School on Monday, said the agenda item provided an opportunity for starting the conversation regarding four-day school.
“We want conversations where people can be honest, where people aren’t afraid to give their opinion,” she said.
However, “more accurate information” is needed to learn about the impacts on the community as a whole, Dastrup said. “That will give everyone a better idea of what they are voting yay or nay on and give them [opportunity] to think over all of the different aspects of what would change.”