The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

January 23, 2012

New Ulm, Sleepy Eye look at four-day school weeks

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Faced with budget deficits and cuts, New Ulm and Sleepy Eye school districts are both eyeing four-day school weeks.

Both districts will hold the second of three public hearings Wednesday night regarding the possibility, which calls for extended school days Tuesday through Friday, with students off Saturday through Monday. (Although the New Ulm calendar would still include some five-day weeks surrounding state testing times, for example.)

The shortened week would save both districts money on such things as utilities, maintenance, bus service, substitutes, and clerical and paraprofessional staffing. The fifth day would still be a work day for teachers. The potential savings for New Ulm’s district are about $100,000. For Sleepy Eye, it’s about $80,000.

“Is the savings enough? ... No, it’s not enough,” said Sleepy Eye Supt. John Cselovszki. “It’s not a solve-all situation.”

The New Ulm district is faced with making $1 million to $1.3 million in cuts to next year’s budget after last November’s levy was voted down by the public. That comes after $1 million in cuts already were made. New Ulm Supt. Harold Remme said the district hasn’t decided yet where those cuts will come from.

A referendum also failed last fall in Sleepy Eye, after the district made $850,000 in cuts during the past three years. Expenses are growing faster than revenues each year, and Sleepy Eye anticipates a little less than a $500,000 deficit during the 2015-16 school year.

Remme said research of previous districts that went to a four-day schedule reported neutral or positive impacts on student achievement. Another benefit included decreased absences.

About 50 people showed up to the first public meeting on the issue in New Ulm. About 110 people attended in Sleepy Eye.

“We were so pleased with that,” Cselovszki said. “People came to listen. (It showed) people are in favor of moving forward.”

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