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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Education

Brooks Blanton

Atlanta, GA

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Shorter School Weeks to Save Money

September 7, 2010 - 11:37 AM | by: Brooks Blanton

Thanks to a long Labor Day weekend, most students heading back to school today will enjoy a four-day school week.  But for some students around the country, every week this school year will be only four days.  Facing massive budget cuts and teacher layoffs, some school districts have opted to cut operational costs by closing schools one day per week.

“We brainstormed every single possibility we could think of and put a dollar amount next to it,” says Peach County, Georgia Schools Superintendent Dr. Susan Clark.  “We had two options, lay off 39 teachers or go to a four day school week.”

Having Mondays off is nothing new for students in the Peach County School District.  Administrators trimmed the school week to four days last year, when the height of the recession forced them to make some serious cuts.  Dr. Clark says that one-day off has cut operational costs for things like heating and cooling, cafeteria expenses and transportation costs without jeopardizing the quality of education for students.  She says total savings has been around $400,000 – enough to save 39 teachers from being laid off.

“As long as we’re facing the financial difficulty that we are, we’ll be continuing that four day week,” Dr. Clark says.  “But the best part about it – teachers, administrators and everybody in the district appear to be very focused in making sure our children get everything they need to get.”

Despite some initial criticism that longer weekends would allow students to become complacent and fall behind in their school work, educators in Peach County Schools say they have actually seen improvements in grades, achievements, behavior and attendance.  Byron Middle School Principal Annette Ross says teachers and students have adjusted to a tougher schedule and streamlined to make the time they have in the classroom more efficient.

“I explained to them that if they wanted to keep Mondays off then they needed to come to school everyday.  Come to school and work when they came to school, and they did that,”  Ross says.  “We had our teacher and student absence to drop tremendously – perfect attendance increased and we saw a big decrease in office referrals.”

Peach County District officials admit there were some initial adjustment issues and some parents were skeptical of the four-day week, but now parents, students and teachers alike have grown to like the shorter schedule.  Youth programs and community groups have started daycare and tutoring programs to help working parents deal with the extra day off.

“Most parents would tell me their weekends were so busy that by the time Sunday night rolled around their kids were exhausted,” says Dr. Clark.  “Parents, particularly those parents who stay at home, really began to like it because they had some quality time with their children.”

The four day school week is starting to catch on as a stubborn recession refuses to let up.  The Georgia Legislature recently passed a law that makes it easier for schools to cut days and still meet state academic requirements.  In addition to Peach County Schools, we found at least 120 other districts across the country who have shortened their school weeks to save money.

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