Some U.S. schools move to four-day school week

Following Utah's mandated four-day work week, some U.S. schools have voted for a four-day school week to save money on transportation, heating, and cooling. Twelve states already have established shortened school weeks.

07/25/2008


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Voice of America, a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government, said schools in 12 states have already established shortened school weeks.

"For rural school districts where buses may travel 100 miles round-trip each day, there certainly are transportation savings worth considering," said Marc Egan, the director of federal affairs at the National School Boards Association.

Egan said about 100 schools in as many as 16 states have already moved to a four-day school week, many to save money on transportation, heating, and cooling.

Nevada's White Pine School District switched just one of its schools to a four-day week three years ago. Now, with energy costs soaring, four other schools in the district are following suit.

"We're looking at it district-wide with energy costs being at the forefront of the conversation," said Bob Dolezal, superintendent of Nevada's White Pine County School District, which is facing a 14 percent budget cut due to a shortfall in state funding.

Maccray Public Schools in Minnesota, which voted to switch to a four-day week in May, expects to shave 10% off transportation costs, which have risen unexpectedly in recent years as fuel costs have shot up.

"The savings for a four-day week just on the transportation alone were $65,000," said Maccray Superintendent Greg Schmidt.

Teacher salaries would not be impacted, but the district estimates it would save about $85,000 a year in costs for busing, heating, substitute teachers and school lunches

The plan initially did cause alarm among some parents, who were concerned about finding child-care, but most have managed to find place their kids in day care or with relatives, Schmidt said. In addition, Maccray plans to institute a child-care certification program for older students to offer day care for younger kids on the day off.

Schmidt said in a KARE-TV news report that the MACCRAY schools would be closed on Mondays, while adding roughly an hour to the regular school day to make up for 23 lost Mondays.

One of the pioneers of the four-day week, the Cimarron, New Mexico school district, is looking to cut energy costs by getting back to its roots.

Cimarron Public Schools moved a four-day week when energy prices shot up in the early 1970s, but has become more "complacent," letting the heating and cooling systems run even during the day off since the end of the OPEC oil embargo, Cimarron's Superintendent James Gallegos said.

With soaring energy costs, that will no longer be the case: "As we start the next school year, it's going to be very minimal on the Fridays that we are off," Gallegos said.

Webster County School District in Kentucky switched to a four-day week four years ago under economic duress—a state budget crisis left the school in limbo, leaving the district with the option of dropping school days or cutting staff and programs.

The district ended up saving tens of thousands of dollars in fuel and energy costs, helping to cut total costs by 3.5% to 4%, said James Kemp, superintendent of the Webster County School District.

The shortened week at Webster also brought unexpected benefits such as improved attendance and a boost in student performance.



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