District may resort to four-day week

School District 51 officials are looking at a range of changes intended to shore up the budget if the state cuts contributions to districts next school year.

One of the possibilities is a four-day school week, district officials said.

Before students start cheering, though, they should know that it doesn’t mean they would be in class any less.

The idea, if it has to be pursued, is to have students in school for longer days, meaning they still will have all the minutes of class time required by the state, District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland said.

A four-day school week would allow the district to take a bite out of the $5.6 million transportation budget, Kirtland said.

Officials have yet to nail down exactly how much such a change might save and whether the change might force up other costs, such as heating and cooling at schools.

And it’s not yet a given the district will see a reduction in state equalization aid to District 51, although there have been estimates of a $5 million loss.

The district this year has a $158 million budget that includes $6,550 per pupil from the state general fund.

District 51 isn’t alone in looking at a four-day week to cut costs. Similar ideas have been floated in Pueblo and Steamboat Springs, said Marcia Neal of Grand Junction, who represents the 3rd Congressional District on the state Board of Education.

“It’s fairly common talk around the state,” Neal said.

District 51 has sought suggestions for budget savings, and some people have raised the idea of the four-day week in a suggestions area on the district Web site, http://www.mesa.k12.co.us, Kirtland said.

Another idea, which has garnered less popularity, is one to get rid of the buses altogether and let students and families work out transportation for themselves, he said.

Ultimately, district officials won’t know until mid-May whether they’ll have to take action at all, Kirtland said.

State officials still have to figure out how to deal with reduced revenue and a state constitutional requirement that Colorado school districts receive annual funding increases at the rate of inflation plus 1 percent.

The district is looking to see whether it will benefit significantly, or at all, from the federal stimulus package, Kirtland said.

Several ideas have been batted around, said Paul Van Camp, president of the Mesa Valley Education Association.

“It just makes sense to look at what savings are out there,” he said.

The state board is looking at several other proposals, such as reduction in payments to teachers for supplies they purchase for their classrooms, Neal said. Some have talked about giving classified employees — instructional aides, custodians, secretaries and others — unpaid days off, Neal said.

So far, though, all the ideas “are just discussions,” Neal said.


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