Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Questions About a Four Day Week and Keeping Students

In the Yankton County Observer, Wayne Pibal asks some thought provoking questions.  He wonders about a four day school week.
Also, I like to see students attend class five days a week, but other nearby districts are saving money by going to four-day weeks.
I'm not sure the savings are there.  In this interview, Mike Griffith, the senior school finance analyst for Education Commission of the States, contends,
The only districts that save a lot money for moving to this are those districts that have an awful lot of bussing required and high transportation costs. So, it's those schools districts that have a small amount of students in a large geographical area. So, it tends to be rural districts that mostly pick up on this program.
Later, Griffith says,
They are because right now with the cutbacks in state funding and local funding they need to find ways to balance their budget. So, they're not left with many options at a certain point, so the things you're looking at are choices that are tough for anyone to make. Either larger class size or discontinuation of programs like arts and science and music or moving to something like this.

Now one of the issues around it is at first you think you can save a great deal of money, but as you look at it as a school or school district the amount you save is really not that high. You're talking maybe saving five percent or so from your budget. And so, once people start to see that the savings are that low, even though they talk about it and think about it they tend to back away from the four-day week
Griffith's analysis seems to indicate that the four day week will work for a district like Faith, South Dakota. Savings for districts like Yankton will be minimal.  Also, I'm pretty sure that parents with younger children in kindergarten, first grade, second grade will spend more on Friday day care than they will on the opt out.

Mr. Pibal also makes a good point about keeping Yankton's student base.
Finally, we have about 500 kids in the district who are choosing NOT to go to Yankton public schools. Why aren’t efforts being made to get them and their money back? They, alone, represent $2.25 million dollars.
I'm guessing here, but most parents who send their children to Sacred Heart, Yankton's christian schools, or who home school their students do so for religious reasons.  I doubt that any argument that the school district can muster will change their minds.  That fact doesn't mean that a careful, concentrated, tactful effort to recruit those students should not be made.

It also seems that the school and community need to ask if more students will be lost if the opt out doesn't pass.  For example, will parents will make other arrangements for their children because Yankton Middle School no longer offers after school activities?  If so, how many?  Exacerbating the problems caused by shrinking enrollment might be another potential hidden cost of a failed opt out.  For others, see Dr. Angie Hejl's excellent letter here.

Governor Daugaard and the 2011 South Dakota Legislature wounded Yankton School District.  Before one looks for ways to tone muscles, one should try to stop the bleeding.

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