Southland looks at four-day school week

Published 6:50 am Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Students at Southland Public Schools could be the envy of kids — and the scorn of some parents — everywhere.

Southland Independent School District has been discussing moving to a four-day school week to slim budgets.

“Right now we are in the initial stages, looking at the idea,” said district superintendent Steve Sallee.

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The idea to slash 20 percent of school time came from teachers looking for innovative ways to make reductions, Sallee said.

A group of educators presented the idea and research to the school board in January, and the board will further discuss the potential of a four-day school week at their monthly meeting Wednesday.

“The board will look at the idea and either decide to request more research or kill the idea,” Sallee said.

Southland schools currently have a balanced budget, but are bracing themselves for a continued loss in state aid and decreasing enrollment, Sallee said.

Southland schools, which serve the towns of Adams, Rose Creek, Taopi, Dexter and Elkton, expect a decrease in enrollment next year. With a large graduating senior class, the district plans to lose 50 students and thus about $250,000 in state funding.

The group of teachers has argued that the savings in utility, maintenance and transportation costs — by nixing one day per week — could amount to $80,000 annually.

Southland would not be the first Minnesota district to cut back to four days.

MACCRAY, which stands for Maynard, Clara City and Raymond, began a four-day week last school year in their west-central Minnesota district. The Blackduck and Warroad districts in northern Minnesota and the Ogilvie district in the central part of the state began a four-day week this year.

“We need to be proactive and grow our balance,” Sallee said. “The board is going to look at whether this is a solution that could make sense for our district.”

Since 2003, the amount the state has paid schools has dropped 13 percent, after adjusting for inflation.

Austin Public Schools have recently authorized administrators to seek cuts to shore up $300,000.

Southland’s school board meets Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Southland Middle School/High School Media Conference Room.