Editorial: Heads up for parents as Sisters consider 4-day school week

Published Mar 12, 2014 at 12:01AM

Now is the time for parents in Sisters to take notice and get informed.

Tonight the school board will consider a proposal for a four-day school week next year. Superintendent Jim Golden is recommending the change to save money, but also because he says there are educational benefits.

The district faces an $800,000 shortfall next year caused partly by declining enrollment, as The Bulletin’s Tyler Leeds reported Sunday. The Sisters district is also still paying back money owed to the state because of misstating its home-school population starting back in 1999, and it owes money for bonds it took out to make school repairs.

Golden says a four-day week would cover about $450,000 of the shortfall, and he is suggesting a bond to pay the rest. He says the district also considered reducing staff, cutting school days, rolling back compensation, eliminating all-day kindergarten and cutting programs.

But Golden says the four-day week is the best path, both to save money and improve education. Even before it realized the extent of its budget crunch, Golden says the district was studying the four-day week’s benefits, including:

• An increase of 66 hours of instructional time because of longer class days and eliminating early release days.

• Improved student attendance and morale, as shown in other districts with a four-day week.

• Less missed class time for student-athletes who now miss Friday hours when they travel for competitions.

• A full planning day for teachers on Fridays.

• Fewer teacher absences because they could schedule medical appointments, etc. on Fridays.

Sisters parents who want to know more might look at the experience in Redmond, which used a four-day week for just one year in 2009-10. Now-Superintendent Mike McIntosh, who was a principal then, told The Bulletin he saw no achievement loss during that year, although one year is too short to judge. But there were negatives, he said, including teachers and students being tired at the end of longer days, and parents having trouble finding day care for Fridays.

Parents and other taxpayers who want to understand the issues have a chance tonight when the school board holds a workshop from 6-8 p.m. at Sisters High School. The change to a four-day week would be disruptive to families, and they need to learn about its pluses and minuses, including the comparison costs for the other possible budget solutions. Well-informed, they can help the board make the right decision for Sisters.