School Views: Contact days with students

The Vail Daily recently ran a story regarding Eagle County School District student contact days. Contact days are the days students are in school and class is in session. While the story included some relevant data points, vital information was left out, which created an inaccurate impression based on incomplete data.

I agree that the more contact time we have with our students the better. In the article, the reporter mentioned that the state of Colorado sets a minimum number of contact days at 160 for all school districts in the state. This is accurate. It is also fair to say that when compared nationally, our state has a lower number of required contact days than most states. The number of required contact dates for most of the country hovers around 180. It’s also true that Eagle County School District has 168 days with students during the 2023-24 school year. However, this year is an anomaly.

This past August we converted three student contact days to professional development days for staff. Eagle County School District typically has 171 student contact days. Because we struggle to find enough guest teachers to cover classrooms during the school year to allow for all of our educators to attend professional development opportunities, we needed to add days to the staff calendar to make time for our staff members to learn and prepare for the upcoming school year. With those three days back into our typical student calendar, we would be back up to our normal amount of contact days: 171, which is on par with the districts we were compared to in the article.

Another vital piece of information left out from the original article pertains to the overwhelming trend that has taken over Colorado school districts: the four-day school week. Colorado leads the nation in the implementation of shortened school weeks, with 128 of 178 districts across the state having sought waivers from the state to drop below the state-set minimum of 160 contact days to move to a four-day school week.

Eagle County School District is not one of them. That’s 72% of school districts across the state of Colorado dropping below the necessary contact day threshold. Again, Eagle County School District is not one of them and we will continue to fight that trend as we prioritize in-person instruction and balance that with the professional development needs of our staff as much as we are able.

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It’s also important to recognize that conversation regarding the benefit of our students starts and ends with the funding available to our school district. Colorado has almost the worst educational budget in the United States, coming in 49th out of 50. I have fought against the state of Colorado’s broken funding model and will continue to do so in the interest of doing better for our community. Our students deserve more across the board. More diverse academic opportunities, more mental health services, and more safe and accessible facilities.

I encourage you to educate yourselves on these topics, ask the hard questions, and knock on my door to have a conversation.

Philip Qualman is the superintendent of Eagle County School District. Email him at

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