May 2, 2013 in Washington Voices

Valley Christian shifting to 4-day week to offer more electives

By The Spokesman-Review
 
PHOTOS BY KATHY PLONKA photo

Valley Christan School kindergartners Kevin Mishakov, center, and Aubrey Segalla, front right, prepare for recess at the school in Spokane Valley on Monday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Valley Christian School is moving to a four-day week next year in order to offer students more electives.

“It’s not a new concept,” said administrator Nathan Williams, who previously worked in a public charter school in Oregon.

It’s something Oregon schools have been doing for a while, often as a way for cash-strapped districts to save money. In a 2008 Time magazine story, 100 districts in 17 states had moved to a four-day school week after the price of diesel rose sharply.

When Williams arrived at Valley Christian last fall, he started looking into ways to offer students classes such as band and choir. He also polled students and their parents about electives they would like to see.

The No. 1 choice was photography. The No. 2 choice was outdoor survival skills.

Williams said in order to offer more electives they would have to add a couple of hours to each school day. Because Fridays are full of disruptions – including spelling bees, academic competitions, parent-teacher conferences and athletics – the school came up with the idea of a four-day week.

“Monday through Thursday is sacred time,” Williams said. Those days would be dedicated to instruction, with no other distractions.

For families who rely on school as a place to send their children on Fridays, the school will be open. Williams said Fridays would include physical education classes, Bible study, computer time, library time, snacks, recess and lunch, but no new concepts will be introduced on those days.

“It’s not child care,” he said. “It’s a true academic day.”

Families will be able to sign up each week to attend on Friday, Williams said. In-house substitute teachers will be used and there will be no additional charge for Fridays.

Williams said next year the school will also add preschool. Valley Christian School has traditionally served students in kindergarten through the 12th grade.

Before deciding to move to a four-day week, Williams said the school asked parents and staff members about the idea.

“We’ve overcommunicated for a couple of months now,” Williams said. Normally, about 40 percent of the parents respond to surveys. Williams said he and his staff made many phone calls to get input and boosted that number to 70 percent.

Of those who responded, 88 percent approved of a four-day week. About 8 percent were still on the fence and only 4 percent had issues with it. Williams said those numbers matched up with the staff members who were polled.

The photography class began in January with 12 juniors and seniors. The students learn about digital photography, use memory cards and use computers to edit their photos.

Next year, the outdoor survival class will teach students about edible plants, starting a fire and tying knots, among other skills. There will also be other options available, such as weight training and even extracurricular activities like cheerleading.

“I’m excited for it,” said Valley Christian junior Grant Marchant. “Longer weekends are always a plus.” He said the outdoor survival class looks interesting as well as the weight training.

Danielle Weik, also a junior, said she likes the idea of an extra day for homework.

“I’m excited for it, especially for athletes to have a little bit of a break during the week,” Weik said.


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