This article first appeared in the Rifle Citizen Telegram.  By Nelson Harvey.

As summer wanes, parents of students in Rifle, Silt and New Castle scramble to plan for the four-day school week that begins Monday with the start of the Garfield School District Re-2 2012-13 school year. And in recent weeks, several area businesses and nonprofit organizations have unveiled programs aimed at keeping students occupied on Fridays, when school won’t be in session.

Colorado Mountain College, the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, and Rifle’s ArtillumA Dance Company are among the entities offering activities. Others include the Rifle-based Synergy Gymnastics Academy, and possibly the Rifle branch of the Garfield County Public Library.

“We realized there would be a need, so when the school district contacted us, we agreed to do something,” said Lynn Churchill, director of the ArtillumA Dance Company.

According to Churchill, her company plans to offer four hours of educational programming from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays, in subjects such as critical thinking, art and music, storytelling, and fitness. Each session will cost about $22.

“It will supplement what the schools are doing, and give the kids something fun to do,” she said.

Most of the recently announced programs will charge student fees to cover their costs, since the same recession-era slowdown in funding that hit the school district has also affected many nonprofits.

“We are too fragile to provide the programming free of charge,” said Gayle Mortell, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts. “We simply don’t have the resources.”

Mortell’s organization will offer four separate classes each Friday during the fall semester, in pottery, music, dance and art. A full day of activities will cost $40, a half-day $30.

“We have a great home school program through the summer, so we knew that we could do it, and we wanted to help,” said Mortell, who hopes to attract around 40 students to help the program pay for itself.

Colorado Mountain College in Rifle will also offer a full day of programming for $40. Plans include several tours of the nearby Eagle Springs Organic farm, as well as a Spanish-themed day that will coincide with the Mexican “Dia de los Muertos,” or Day of the Dead.

“We have been running kids camp in the summer for three years now, so this is a natural transition for us,” said college Instructional Chair Sue Schmidt, who designed the kids camp.

Schmidt said the program would accept only 12 students per week for the fall semester, though students can sign up on a week-by-week basis, depending on their interests.

While it leaves students idle three days per week, the four-day school week is expected to save the school district around $494,897 in transportation, food and staffing costs, according to district budget documents.

The school board approved the change last spring ,along with several other cost-cutting measures, all designed to cope with declines in state education funding caused by the ongoing recession.

Another entity hoping to provide Friday activities this fall is the Garfield County Library District, though it, too, is struggling with a slimmed-down budget due to lower tax revenues.

Grant Coordinator Kelsey Been said the district recently applied for a $20,000 state grant that would finance at least seven weeks of fall programming, but the results won’t be announced until October.

“If we get the grant, we’ll try to do some programming immediately, but our operating budget is down significantly and without the grant it would be difficult,” she said.

In a less academic vein, other area businesses have also announced plans to cater to students’ newfound freedom on Fridays. Rifle Fireside Lanes bowling alley, for instance, is holding Dollar Ditch Day every Friday, offering Re-2 students and teachers a game and a pair of shoes for just $1.

Friday educational programs launching this fall:
• Colorado Mountain College Rifle: Friday Kids Camp, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for children seven to 14, all classes $40.
3695 Airport Road, Rifle, 625-1871.
Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts: All day programming 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. $40 a day or $30 a half day. 601 E. Sixth St., Glenwood Springs,
• ArtillumA Dance Company: Class covering critical thinking, art, music, fitness and drama, $22 a day. 11 a.m. to
3 p.m. 224 E. 21st St., 625-6616.
• Synergy Gymnastics Academy: 6- to 8-year-olds, 12:30 p.m. to 1:25 p.m. 8- to 11-year-olds 1:30 p.m. to 2:25 p.m. 800 Airport Road, Suite 9, Rifle,
• Rifle Fireside Lanes: Dollar ditch day, Re-2 teachers and students get shoes and a game of bowling for a dollar. 0023 Colorado Highway 325, Rifle, 625-2231.