Threat of 4-day school week looms

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 5, 2001

The possibility of a four-day school week starting in March isnot out of the question here if state legislators are unable tofund the current budget for Mississippi public schools.

Although the superintendents of education for both the LincolnCounty and the Brookhaven School Districts are not thrilled aboutthe idea, they understand it is a resort that may have to be takenin order to finish the school year.

“The four-day week, although it’s not ideal, is better thanrunning out of money and having to cut back services,” said PerryMiller, Lincoln County superintendent.

Two weeks ago the Mississippi Association of SchoolSuperintendents met to discuss a variety of possibilities to makeup the pending budget shortfalls. According to Brookhaven SchoolDistrict Superintendent Dr. Sam Bounds, who along with Millerattended the meeting, only eight of the 125 superintendents presentvoted against the four-day school week as an option.

“It’s not something we want to do. The only reason we’re lookingat this is because we’ve been forced to find cost saving measures,”said Bounds. “There’s no way we can reduce contracted employees, sowe’re looking at what would have the least affect.”

Since that meeting, an announcement was made that will have asignificant impact on the school districts. On Friday, GovernorRonnie Musgrove ordered three percent reductions in spending forall public schools.

The executive committee of the Mississippi Association of SchoolSuperintendents plans to meet Tuesday to discuss the unexpectedannouncement, said Bounds, who is a member of the executivecommittee.

The new cuts put more of a strain on school districts across thestate. Districts have been scrambling to save money since Augustwhen legislators announced that funding for the Minimum FoundationPrograms might not be available even though the schools had alreadybudgeted for the state mandated programs.

The four-day school week could save a significant amount ofmoney and avoid a loss of instructional time.

“It’s a 20 percent savings as far as utility bills andtransportation costs, plus there will be some savings in thecafeteria program,” said Miller.

A four-day school week will mean school days will be extended by90 minutes of instructional time each day to make up the lost fifthday and meet the state requirement of 180 days of instruction peryear.

Superintendents are worried what effects longer school days willhave on the teachers and students, especially in elementary. Theybelieve it will be hard for young children to be attentive from 8a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Although the idea has been a topic of discussion for two weeks,superintendents have not received much feedback on the idea.

The local school boards will discuss and possibly make adecision about the four-day school week at their monthly meetings.The Lincoln County School Board meets at 5:30 p.m. today, and theBrookhaven School Board meets at 6 p.m. next Monday.

Everyone involved in the education systems hopes the four-dayschool week will not become a reality this year.

“We’re still hoping that the legislature reestablishes thefunding for the Minimum Foundation Program,” said Bounds.