BROOKSVILLE — Starting this week, most Hernando County school buildings and district offices will be closed on Fridays for much of the summer to save money.
For six weeks, the district will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, only the three schools offering prekindergarten will remain open. The move will save around $79,000 in energy costs, finance director Deborah Bruggink said.
That's good news, in a budget season that has already seen the district's shortfall grow from $2-million to a projected $4.5-million due to plummeting state tax revenues.
Still, some School Board members have misgivings about the change and the manner in which it was carried out.
With so many children switching schools over the summer because of district rezoning that takes effect in the coming school year, parents need to be able to reach the central office five days a week this summer, member Pat Fagan said.
"You're going to have a lot of people asking questions and needing answers," he added.
Superintendent Wayne Alexander said he ran the proposal past board members individually. But both Fagan and Jim Malcolm said the change should have been subject to a board discussion and vote.
"That's the only way I know what my colleagues think," said Malcolm, referring to the restrictions on outside discussions under Florida's open meetings law.
"If you're going to do business any way different than what we do, or if it has a significant impact on our budget — and it does — bring it before the board."
Malcolm said he was willing to give the four-day workweek a try, noting that the district has traditionally allowed central office staff to work a flexible schedule of four, 10-hour days in the summer.
Chairwoman Sandra Nicholson said the change would help parents who have struggled to reach district staffers during previous summers.
"The problem in the past was they'd say, 'So and so's not here today,' " Nicholson said "Nothing happened on Mondays and Fridays. Now it's just Friday."
But she said the district could do a better job of advertising the new summer hours. "It should be on the Web site," Nicholson said.
Tom Marshall can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1431.