A new study says the switch to a four-day school week isn’t saving Idaho school districts the kind of money they had expected. The Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho even found that some districts say their costs went up after the change.
Forty-two of Idaho’s 115 districts now have four-day school weeks. Many have made the change in recent years as state lawmakers cut education funding. It isn't clear yet if some schools might use the report as an opportunity to reconsider the switch.
The Marsing School District went to a four-day week in 2012, right before Norm Stewart took over as superintendent. He says initially, the district was hoping to save money and increase attendance.
“You make your main savings in the year you transition to it," Stewart says. "From that point on you really do build your budget around that four-day school week.”
Stewart says Marsing saved $72,000 during the first year. He says the district could have saved more if leaders hadn’t stopped to consider what the change meant to non-teachers.
“The employees that take the biggest hit are the classified employees because they’re losing a whole day of employment," he says. "The school board opted to try to hold as many of those employees as harmless as possible."
The district worked to incorporate those workers into other positions so they would still get paid a full paycheck. Stewart says that has taken away from the total cost savings.
But Stewart says it’s about more than just saving money. Once the four-day schedule settled in, teachers soon found expanded educational opportunities in the non-traditional schedule.
“We have opportunities for kids. We provide enrichment opportunities.”
That includes dual credit opportunities on Fridays. Students can get extra tutoring or work on scholarships on their day “off.” Teachers can use the days to teach areas that are outside of their normal fields. Teachers also have opportunities for professional development.
“We use the regular school days, Monday through Thursdays, for the regular instruction, and then try to expand those opportunities for students and staff on Fridays," Stewart says.
Stewart says the schedule provides families with choices. Some send their kids for extra class time on Fridays. Some take three-day vacations. Others spend more family time at home with their kids.
Stewart says the district doesn't have any plans to move away from the 4-day week.
Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio
Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio