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Blackduck School District: Calendar, schedule proposed for four-day week

The Blackduck School District would drop Mondays from the school week under a proposed calendar and schedule for the 2009-10 school year.

In a May 19 letter, Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren notified Superintendent Bob Doetsch that she approved his one-year request for a four-day school week.

The Blackduck School Board voted 5-1 April 6 to approve a four-day school week for the 2009-10 school year. On June 8, the board will consider the proposed calendar and schedule for the school year.

Doetsch said there are 31 Mondays in the school year, but the skipped days would actually be 25 Mondays because some are holidays.

Teachers, according to the proposed schedule, would start the school day at 7:50 a.m. and end the school day at 4:30 p.m.

Also, elementary school students would be in school from 8:10 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. and high school students would be in school from 8:25 a.m. to 4:20 p.m., according to the proposal.

"There are more minutes in the four-day week versus the five-day week," Doetsch said.

With the current five-day week schedule, students will have 64,500 minutes with teachers this school year, he said. He noted that students would have 65,415 minutes with teachers with the four-day school week as proposed.

Doetsch noted that the elementary school day would start 15 minutes earlier than the high school day to allow elementary school students to eat breakfast after school begins. The high school, he said, would serve breakfast before school.

Tentatively, the district plans to hold practices for extra-curricular activities from 4:30-6:15 p.m., and offer late bus rides at 6:30 p.m. on some nights, Doetsch said.

District administration also is considering the possibility of offering accelerated math and reading programs for students in grades 3-6 from 8-11 a.m. Mondays. Doetsch said there would be a fee for participation and parents would have to transport their children to the programs.

The Blackduck School Board began talking last summer about how it could save money, Doetsch said.

"We just want to keep our deficit spending down," he said, adding that the district has several replacements and upgrades to make. "We started talking about the four-day (week) in September of last fall and how much it could save us if we go to a four-day week."

Doetsch said the district, which currently has $900,000 in its general fund, projects it will save at least $70,000 by moving to the four-day week. The savings, he said, will be in bus driver, cook and housekeeper wages; transportation and building fuel; food; electricity; and substitute teacher pay.

The response to the four-day week has been mixed.

"Overall, I've heard more positives than negatives up to this point," Doetsch said. "Teachers have been very positive. Parents, for the most part, they have been positive."

He said some parents and community members also have expressed concerns, including concerns related to day care, the length of day for young students, time for extra-curricular practices and the financial impact on the city.

Doetsch said teachers will continue to work as hard as they ever have and the district will continue to supply a "wonderful" quality of education for all students.

At the end of the 2009-10 school year, the district will re-evaluate the four-day week with parent involvement to determine whether to stay with a four-day week or return to a five-day week, he said.

"A vote is not out of the question," Doetsch said.

The board, he added, will have the final say.