More 4-day school weeks coming to some Sask. schools

Longer days — but more long weekends — will soon be the norm for students and teachers at more Saskatchewan schools.

Schools in Mossbank, Craik and Chaplin will soon have 14 extra long weekends

Mossbank School is moving to an alternate calendar next school year, which will see 14 more four-day school weeks. (Submitted by Lorenne Rutko)

The prospect of 14 additional long weekends — and the potential benefits advocates say it would bring — is attracting more Saskatchewan schools to adopt an alternate school year calendar.

All but four rural schools in the Prairie South School Division are now using or choosing to move to the alternate calendar. There are 39 schools in the division in total.

"All of the schools that are doing it are doing it because they asked to be able to," said director of education Tony Baldwin.

The calendar cuts back an extra 14 school weeks to four days each. To make up for the lost time, each school day is 25 minutes longer.

Central Butte, Eyebrow and Bengough schools made the switch in September 2017, while Mossbank, Craik and Chaplin will use the new calendar starting this fall.  

Baldwin said one of the biggest draws is that children will spend less time on the bus.

"If you can take 14 days a year for 13 years off of that bus ride, that's an awful lot of that little person's life that comes back to them where they're not rattling around on a bus," Baldwin said.

Mossbank making the switch

Lengthy bus rides, which at times exceed an hour each way, were among the reasons behind Mossbank School's decision to switch.  

Principal Leanne Rutko said it was also about having extra time off for family time, and taking the pressure off for young children who find the five-day week tiring.  

Mossbank School principal Leanne Rutko said many parents are excited for the switch to a schedule with more long weekends. (Submitted by Lorenne Rutko)

She said she expects some growing pains while the school and community adapts, but said most people she hears from are excited.

"We've been hearing a lot of really positive comments from people saying that, 'Oh, we can't wait 'til next year when we have this.' We've had a lot of people outside of our community tell us we're going to love it," Rutko said.

The decision to switch came down to a vote. Eighty per cent of families and community members voted in favour of the alternate calendar.

Of the 20 per cent who voted against, Rutko said the most common concern was child care.

"It was mostly from families who didn't have kids in schools yet and worried about child care. It's a legitimate concern for sure," she said.

Child care a concern 

Child care was the biggest issue for Alicia Rudneski since Central Butte's recent switch to the alternate calendar last fall.  Rudneski has three children, two of whom go to the school. She also operates a daycare from her home.

Alicia Rudneski of Central Butte, Sask., is struggling with the switch to a new school schedule, which has more four-day weeks. (Alicia Rudneski/Facebook)

She said on those extra long weekends, she has had to turn away parents looking for child care so as to not go over the limit of children she can look after at once.

"Having my own kids home on a Friday puts the stress on me of having to tell someone else no, that I can't take their kids because mine are home," Rudneski said.

She said there are benefits to the system, such as getting to spend more time with the children.

"But then through the daycare aspect of it, it really kind of sucks," she said.

Rudneski said she prefers the old calendar.

Central Butte's principal, Troy Wist, said he hadn't personally heard any negative complaints about the new system, but many have come forward in support.  

One benefit he noted is there's been a decrease in staff absences, especially for teachers who are also coaches going to out-of-town games. 

"We travel for football," Wist said. "We schedule all our road games on those Fridays."

The alternate calendar will operate for a two-year trial in each community and will then be assessed. 

About the Author

Micki Cowan

Reporter/producer

Micki is a reporter and producer at CBC Saskatchewan. Her passions are municipal issues and water security.