AMERICAN FORK Alpine School District administrators plan to study whether schools should be open year-round or for "extended" days to provide teachers an opportunity to earn extra income.
Called "productivity" or "efficiency" schedules, year-round and extended-day programs are usually intended for better use of school buildings, packing more students inside each year.
But now, "the underlying motivation here is different," Alpine Board of Education member Christine Hannemann said.
With Utah public schools facing a teacher shortage, the Alpine School District is searching for ways to boost salaries to be more competitive to those in surrounding states.
"We're able to compensate teachers at better levels," said Gary Seastrand, an assistant superintendent. "And that is one of the recommendations of the K-16 Alliance, it's saying (if) we're going to have people attracted to education, they're going to have to have a better salary."
The K-16 Alliance was a committee of education officials, including Alpine
Superintendent Vern Henshaw, college deans and economists who studied Utah's teacher shortage.
The alliance noted that in the 2005-06 school year, there was a 1,400-teacher shortage and recommended five ideas to eliminating the shortage, including school districts adopting efficiency models.
Year-round schedules require teachers to work beyond the 180-day standard teaching contract in Utah, often through the summer. Teachers have more than one class, and they teach their classes in shifts spanning several weeks.
Extended-day schedules require teachers to work beyond the 990 hours that's standard in Utah teaching contracts. They teach two classes in shifts during the same school day, combining the classes for subjects such as social studies but teaching the classes separately for subjects such as math and reading.
No Alpine schools are currently on year-round schedules.
"We have about two-thirds of elementary and all of our junior highs (on extended-day schedules)," Seastrand said. "And in the high school, when you talk productivity, we don't really have any specific model. What we have is we'll pay a teacher to give up one of their (preparatory hours) to teach another class. We call it an eighth (period)."
District administrators could mull other ideas for high schools, none of which participate in productivity schedules, such as year-round contracts offered to one or two teachers in each department.
"You could be looking at credit remediation," Seastrand said. "You could be looking at acceleration."
Elementary school teachers in Alpine who work extended days make about 14 percent more than if they would work a regular contract.
"At the junior high school, it's a little more," Seastrand said.
The district is saving about 20 percent on junior high buildings with productivity schedules. It currently has 10 junior high or middle schools. If not for productivity, the district would need two more buildings, Seastrand said.
Before the district makes any decisions about productivity schedules, a committee of administrators, principals and teacher union representatives will discuss options.
In a recent discussion about productivity models with the Board of Education, board member JoDee Sundberg said that the incentive to make more money could make Alpine School District attractive to teachers looking for jobs, but they'll have to work harder to earn their salaries than they would in other states.
"We're in a Catch-22 with that," she said.
A teacher would rather teach extra hours than pick up a part-time job for additional income, Seastrand said. The summer of his eighth year in education, Seastrand worked at a gilsonite mine in Vernal.
"I hated every minute of it, but I needed the money," he said.
And there will be additional costs to keeping the school open for additional hours a day or days a year.
E-mail: [email protected]