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Pasco School Board rejects four-day school week

LAND O'LAKES — The four-day week idea is dead for Pasco County schools.

Pasco County School Board members unanimously panned the concept during a Tuesday afternoon workshop, saying they saw few benefits in it.

"I personally don't see positives for students, parents, staff and community," chairwoman Joanne Hurley said. "I had to see real positives in addition to budget savings."

Task force chairman Steve Luikart said his panel, which met several times since September, projected that a four-day week would generate about $6.6 million in savings — more than the administration had estimated, but not enough to cover the district's anticipated budget shortfall.

Hurley said she saw a school district already facing multiple major challenges, such as new testing and teacher evaluations, with a limited appetite to tackle another major change. The added childcare costs for parents offered another detriment, she said.

"To my way of thinking, the timing of this, for a district of our size and with the challenges we already have, is not optimum," she said. "I just think it would be too much."

The others agreed.

"Think about children who are hurting, who look to the schools for stability," board vice chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong said.

They come for the warm meal, the daily routine, the safe environment, she said.

"Doing away with that fifth day is really going to hurt the students that most need us," Armstrong said. "You can put numbers and dollars on it, but you have to remember what we are here for. We are here to provide for the students."

Board member Alison Crumbley, meanwhile, talked about the academic issues raised by the concept.

She lumped the idea in with the district's past calendar initiatives, including double sessions and the 45-15 schedule from the mid-1970s, when students attended class for nine weeks, then were off for three, allowing for year-round use of the school buildings.

"I felt like it affected my experience in high school, not positively," Crumbley said. "I have to see more evidence on student achievement."

More intriguing to the board members were the savings ideas listed in the back of the task force report, ones that have no connection to the four-day week.

"I want to study the additional cost savings in it," board member Allen Altman said. "Right now I think we've got some useful information we can take to save additional dollars."

Those ideas included powering down vending machines ($140,658 per year); adding motion sensors to cut off classroom lights ($603,428 per year); and reducing idling time for buses ($122,376 per year).

Luikart said the task force had no position on whether the board should adopt the four-day week. He stressed that the main goal was to provide the best available information so the board could make a valid decision.

The top priority, he said, was "to save student programs … and to save teachers' jobs."

He remained hopeful that the district would find ways to do that while cutting about $26 million in spending and adding about $6 million in teacher salaries to meet class size requirements.

The board plans to begin budget workshops in May.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at jsolochek@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

By the numbers

$3.9 million estimated personnel savings under a four-day school week

$1.42 million estimated savings in energy, water, sewer and waste disposal

$1.28 million estimated savings in

transportation

$6.6 million total projected savings under a four-day school week

Source: Pasco School Board task force on four-day week

Pasco School Board rejects four-day school week 03/20/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 9:15pm]
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