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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More Schools Turn To Four Day Week To Cut Costs

(AP)

Schools are cash strapped and they’ve been cutting the arts, sports, any after school activities, and now many are cutting a day.

The Washington Post reports that nearly 300 school districts across the country have cut a school day from the week to save money. Four day weeks have been around since the 1930s, but mostly in rural areas, where the cost of bussing students is so high. One school that recently turned to a four day week is North Branch, Minnesota.

“We wanted to maintain as many teachers as we could in the classroom, to maintain class size that was as reasonable as it could be and this is one of the great savings that we were able to come up with,” North Branch superintendent Deb Henton told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Total Savings=$250K

Henton says that the four day week saved North Branch $250,000. As the Washington Post reports:

Savings are gained in electricity, food and transportation as well as the wages for cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other nonsalaried employees…totaling around just 2.5 percent of a typical budget.

The Impact On Students

Henton points out that instruction time for students has not fallen, the remaining four school days are longer, and achievement has not decreased.

But there has been some criticism– some students who end up in day care one day a week say they are bored and would rather be in school. And with longer days, teachers have had to change the way they teach to keep students’ attention (Though some families say they like that their child has a three day weekend.)

Kids Caught In The Middle Of Debate

Henton said that North Branch moved to the four day week because of budget constraints. She said that voters in North Branch have rejected a tax increase to pay for the schools, a resistance she attributes to the high tax burden that residents bear. Henton said that in areas with more businesses or a denser population, voters have agreed to increased taxes to fund the schools. Henton says the state will not contribute more to pay for the schools.

“It’s a very difficult situation and caught right in the middle are the kids,” she said.

Do you have a four-day school week? Do you think this is a reasonable way to save money? Tell us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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