Suburban Philly school districts weigh 4-day weeks

May 5, 2011 2:46:02 PM PDT
Two Pennsylvania school districts are trying to decide if fewer days mean more money.

The Coatesville Area School District in Chester County and the Warren County School District are considering four-day weeks as a way to cut costs while dealing with shrinking budgets.

If either school opts for a four-day week, it would be the first in the state to take such a measure.

A four-day week would save Coatesville about $1.7 million a year because of lower operations and transportation costs, superintendent Richard Como told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The district considers a four-day week a last resort in dealing with a $12 million budget gap. The other is the elimination of 53 jobs.

School board President J. Neil Campbell said he was seriously considering the shortened week if no other good funding solutions can be found.

Last month, Matthew Jones, coordinator of grants and foundation development for the Warren County School District, told a budget team the short week has worked well for districts elsewhere, which reported better attendance and student morale while lengthening the time spent in class each day.

Many districts also reported that student performance was unchanged despite the shorter week.

"It doesn't seem like something that is going to impact it negatively," Jones told the panel, according to the Warren Times Observer.

Under the preliminary plans, both districts would give students Monday off. Students in Coatesville's middle and high schools would have their days extended 45 minutes while elementary school students would get an extra 80 minutes.

Because the proposals are in the very early stages in both districts, teachers have not weighed in definitively. But Coatesville teachers union president Mary Beth Guiseppe said staff cuts are a much worse idea.

The proposal is not without complications, however.

The most obvious is child care during the extra day off. Como said Coatesville could look into providing day care on Mondays if there was a demand for it. A Warren County district official met with day care providers who said they were worried about absorbing more children, but Jones suggested older children might be able to take on some of those responsibilities.