Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Schools mull four-day weeks to reduce fuel costs

An increasing number of school districts nationwide are contemplating or have already converted to four-day school weeks, in response to rinsing fuel and utility costs. This could become a major way for schools to save money, especially in rural districts where busing costs are high, but there are disadvantages.

The Courier-Journal reports that multiple school districts in Kentucky are considering four-day weeks. Pike County schools have established a committee to investigate the possibility. Webster County schools and Jenkins Independent Schools in Letcher County moved to four-day weeks a few years ago and extended the length of school days to conform with the number of required instructional hours. The "switch has brought about nothing but improvements to their systems," reports. the Kentucky Post (which survives as a Scripps TV Web site though the company has closed the newspaper of that name).

"Just because the four-day system may work well in Jenkins and Webster, officials at the schools warn that they success may or may not translate to a large school system like Pike County," the state's largest in land area. Still, the four-day school week was discussed at great length this month during a State Board of Education meeting. "The board was very interested in the subject, and we decided that a future meeting, as soon as we can get them on the schedule, for districts to come up and talk to us" about four-day school weeks, Board Chairman Joe Brothers told Louisville's WLKY-TV. "It's an exciting idea that's time has come."

Kentucky is not the only state with districts considering a one-day reduction in school weeks. The Town Talk of Alexandria, La., reports that the Evangeline Parish School Board is considering a return to four-day weeks: "The board tried the four-day schedule at several schools in the parish, but the superintendent at the time felt the system was not saving sufficient funds to justify the change, and the district went back to a five-day schedule." Jessica Bauer writes for the Log Cabin Democrat in Arkansas that "with the rising cost of gasoline, and the rising cost of everything that goes with it, school districts across the state are looking at ways to buckle down on spending," including a four-day week.

Vince Illuzzi, a Vermont senator, wants to reduce the school and state government work weeks to four days, Keagan Harsha reports for WCAX. As previously reported here, a growing number of community colleges are switching to four-day a week schedules. In addition to changes to student schedules, many school districts have enacted temporary four-day work weeks for employees during the summer. Medford School District in Oregon did so in response to rising gas costs, writes Kathy Wing for KDRV. School districts and governments nationwide, including those in California, Arkansas, Alabama, New Mexico and North Carolina, are experimenting with four-day summer schedules but are slow to adopt it year round. "I'm not sure that there's not a limit to what a student can learn during the course of a school day based on how long that student is in school," Greg Murry, superintendent of Arkansas' Conway School District, told Bauer. "And I'm particularly concerned about kindergarteners, first- and second-graders having to sit there during an additional hour and a half," and about the effect on students' parents. (Read more)

1 comment:

Linda Vanderwerf said...

I'm a reporter in Minnesota with a school district nearby that will switch to a four-day week this fall. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who has covered such a transition in the past. This is a new one on me, and I'm sure there are angles to this story that I haven't thought of yet.
Linda Vanderwerf, staff writer
West Central Tribune
Willmar, MN
lindav(at)wctrib.com