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Archive for Saturday, February 7, 2004

Teachers’ group to suggest four-day school week

February 7, 2004

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Good news for Lawrence public school students: Three-day weekends could be on the way.

But it's a desire to avoid bad news -- teacher layoffs, too-large class sizes and program eliminations -- that's behind proposed school schedule changes from the city's teachers union.

"In the end, would it be better to do some of this (schedule changes) than have class sizes of 33, or rather than eliminating sports?" said Wayne Kruse, president of Lawrence Education Assn. and a sixth-grade teacher at Quail Run School.

The group's goal is to cut costs without jeopardizing student learning, he said. Four-day school weeks, later beginnings of the school year and more time off at Christmas could help the district avoid other drastic cuts.

Supt. Randy Weseman said he welcomed ideas for making the district financially efficient. He's already working with the school board to find up to $2 million in possible budget cuts in anticipation of no new funding from the state.

"I'm open to their ideas," Weseman said of the teachers. "There will be a lot of questions."

The impact of schedule changes on student achievement and on the lives of families with schoolchildren needs to be explored, Weseman said. Estimates of cost savings also will need to be developed.

Sue Morgan, a Lawrence school board member, said community reaction to the union's suggestions would be pivotal.

"I don't think most families have a four-day work week," she said. "I would be interested in getting some feedback from the community about it."

Kruse said moving to a schedule with longer but fewer school days could save money on utilities, transportation and substitute teachers.

"There's a zillion ways to save money and some are compatible with our goals. Some are not," Morgan said. "Our focus has to be on what does it do in terms of carrying out our mission to teach kids."

Board member Linda Robinson said she wasn't a proponent of the four-day school week.

She said adjusting the starting and stopping dates of school during the year made more sense. It would conserve energy to start later in August and end later in May, she said.

The difficulty is negotiating that kind of substantive change in teacher contracts, Robinson said.

Kruse said it was doubtful any of the group's suggestions could be implemented in the 2004-2005 school year.

"It's planting seeds," he said.

The teachers will speak to the board at a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

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