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Denair Elementary to change its minimum day

Friday is a day that many people look forward to, as the work week comes to an end and workloads are sometimes lighter heading into the weekend. At Denair Elementary Charter School, this notion may have been especially true, as students have become accustomed to being released an hour early at 1 p.m. to accommodate for two hours of teacher training and collaboration. Next school year, though, this will all change.

During Thursday night’s Denair Unified School District Board meeting, trustees voted unanimously to move minimum days each week from Friday to Wednesday in an effort to improve student attendance, staff development and academic performance.

“There’s definitely a feeling over the past few years that it’s OK to miss on Friday because it’s just a minimum day,” said DUSD superintendent Terry Metzger. “Perhaps the most important reason [for the change] is that in our district, 30% of our kids are proficient in English and 10% of our students are proficient in math. We have a moral imperative to do better. That means looking at instructional minutes. That means looking at curriculum. That means looking at staff development. And that means looking at how we structure our calendar. … We send a message when we do midweek collaboration that Friday is not an ‘easy’ day.”

According to the district, the motion to vote on the schedule change did not require negotiation with the local teacher’s union, something that some instructors have expressed issue with, clear in the fact that a petition opposing the change has been started.

Kimberly Evans is one of those instructors and explained that she and many of her colleagues were surprised when the idea first began floating around in recent weeks. Evans also felt that the minimum days on Fridays was something unique about Denair Unified as most other surrounding school districts have minimum days for teacher collaboration on Wednesdays.

“We have done so many things as a small district to stand out,” Evans said. “Why would we want to do something just to fit in?”

But Metzger insisted that a change of schedule is less about looks and more about results.

“We are in the business of educating kids,” Metzger said. “We knew pre-COVID that what we were doing wasn’t working for everyone. I remember saying that if we come out of COVID doing the same things, we will have failed.”

Nevertheless, there is still doubt that switching up minimum days would achieve the results desired by the district.

“I think one of the things to consider is that if parents are taking their kids out of school, they’re going to do it on a Friday anyway. They’re going miss more time,” said parent Jason DeMuro, whose wife is also a teacher at DECA.

Andrea Bennett shared similar sentiments, questioning the impact of difference of workloads at different times for teachers.

“If teachers are exhausted and can’t sit through professional development on Friday, what’s going to happen when they have to teach after lunch on Friday?” Bennett asked.

The opposing arguments did little to persuade the Board of Trustees, as a 5-0 vote made the change official.

“Change is uncomfortable. I get that,” Metzger said. “Changing from Friday to Wednesday has pros and cons, [but] I believe the pros outweigh the cons.”

The first day of the 2023-2024 school year at Denair Unified is Wednesday, Aug. 9.