Four Day School Weeks; Pass or Fail?

By KBJR News 1

November 30, 2010 Updated Nov 30, 2010 at 8:36 PM CDT

Two Harbors, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - The decision for the second largest school district in the state to move to a four day week seems, so far, the right choice.

The decision came after nearly a year of researching other districts nationwide.

Administrators say they felt strongly they could avoid painful cuts.

Superintendent Phil Minkkinen has been with the district 5 years, saying this isn't the first time drastic changes were made.

"My first year we cut a million three... Twenty five people went home without a job. But we haven't done it since then. And that's the goal, to keep our programs in place."

The four day week adds about a half hour to each school day.

Students' weekends start Thursday night, giving staff more time to polish their craft and have a full day to work on curriculum.

Brett Archer, Principal at Two Harbors High, says this is a good thing.

"That extra time allows for more prep work. Teachers are used to coming in on the weekends and working anyways so a lot of them are coming in Friday so they feel they have more time to prepare for classes."

Initially, the district faced fallout from faculty members. Fears of higher work loads and falling behind on curriculum were on their minds, but nearly halfway through the year, their minds are at ease.

"Teachers are comfortable. Obviously some are concerned but the proof is in the pudding, and we will see when the test scores come in. Most of the teachers feel they are at [in their curriculum] where they were last year at this time."

The students are also reacting.

"If you have a lot of school work, you have plenty of time over the weekend to get it done."

"The kids seem more rested. I think the extra day on the weekend is certainly helping them."

The district also intends to use the extra day off to shuttle sports teams to their away games, eliminating the need to allow varsity players early dismissal during the week.

So overall, was this choice a success?

"Well its... different. And there was a lot of resistance here I'm not going to tell you there wasn't. People were concerned about it. They asked their questions and got their answers. Overall our parent surveys show they are very satisfied with what we have done so farand when those test scores come out in the spring, we will see how successful this was."

The faculty also took a two year salary freeze, saving the district almost three quarters of a million dollars.

A survey conducted at last month's parent–teacher conferences shows about 80 percent of parents said their kids adapted well to the four–day week while 78 percent saw a positive or no impact at all on their children.