Washoe County School District trustees on Tuesday agreed to try and maximize the validity of a recent survey sent to Gerlach families that showed support for a 4-day school week starting this August.
The idea was prompted by the Gerlach community, Superintendent Traci Davis said. A recent survey sent to families from the district showed 84 percent supported a Monday-through-Thursday school week. The response rate was 100 percent and district staff indicated most completed the survey with pencil and paper.
Trustee Debra Feemster said she got phone calls from constituents in Gerlach who said they answered yes on the survey because they felt pressured to support the 4-day week. She suggested the survey be done again, even if it meant informal phone calls.
“What I heard was that some people felt like they just had to say yes. Someone said they were concerned about retaliation,” Feemster said. “It’s not going to hurt to have someone who’s not connected to the school make phone calls or talk to people.”
Davis said this would be another opportunity for people to voice their opinions.
“How anonymous is something if someone hands in a piece of paper?” Davis said.
Gerlach collectively has 24 students in elementary, middle, and high school. There are two certified teachers, two teacher assistants, two special education aides, one groundskeeper, one bus driver, and a half-time office manager. Katy Hadley, principal of Northstar Online School, oversees leadership in Gerlach.
Deputy Superintendent Kristin McNeill said district staff also spoke with families and staff about the issue prior to the survey.
Advantages cited for a 4-day school week were as follows:
- Increased daily instructional time to promote improved grades and test scores
- Less costs for nutritional services
- Savings in utilities/transportation
- Increased student/staff attendance with planning appointments on the day off
- Fewer disciplinary issues with better focus on a 4-day school week
- Increased student/staff morale with flexible schedule and greater 4-day focus
- Additional time for music, art, and physical education
- Ability to see medical personnel, shop, or make needed trips to urban areas of Washoe County without taking students and staff out of school
- Promote qualified staff to work in Gerlach Schools, there are currently ongoing shortages in filling positions
- Potential collaboration with athletic teams to travel on Fridays with Pyramid Lake High School, which is also on a 4-day school week
- Additional opportunities for Friday field trips to offset the weekly minutes.
Gerlach teacher Stacey Black told trustees that students travel from as far as 45 miles each way, many on gravel roads, to get to school.
If approved, the 143-day school year would be 415 minutes per day, or 59,400 minutes per school year.
Trustees modified the Gerlach calendar last year to give the school off the week of the Burning Man counterculture arts festival. School officials made the request then because the week-long event before Labor Day brings an increase of strangers into the area, excessive traffic, and long lines for fuel. Gerlach this year requested that week be made up by forgoing fall break in October.