PUEBLO " School officials in Pueblo are talking about four-day school weeks next year to save money.
Pueblo County School District 70 says it could save about $1.2 million next year with the shorter school week. The savings would come from savings in staffing, utilities and bus service.
Shorter school weeks aren't new " they've been in Colorado since at least 1980, when the state Legislature approved them " but the recession has more schools nationwide looking at the change.
In Pueblo, the idea for a shorter school week was discussed in meetings with parents about finding $4.5 million to cut from the budget for the 2009-2010 school year.
The Pueblo Chieftain reports that officials have not announced details about how the four-day week would work. Officials plan to conduct a parent survey in coming weeks to debate the idea.
Superintendent Dan Lere said the district would hash out the idea to answer parent questions " such as how late children would stay at school " before going forward.
"We plan to give them an idea of what a four-day week looks like," Lere told the newspaper.
Introduced by New Mexico during the 1970s oil crisis, the abbreviated school week is gaining fresh momentum in states and districts hurt by the economic downturn. Select districts in about 17 states already follow a four-day week and legislators in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Missouri and Washington have introduced similar proposals.
In Colorado alone, about 60 districts are on a four-day school week this year. A 2006 Colorado Department of Education report on the four-day week said the initial reason for making the switch has generally been financial.
In Pueblo County, the four-day week debate so far has followed a typical pattern: rural parents and students like it best, while people closer to town are not as enthusiastic. The plan saves the most money in rural areas where pupils
have long rides to class.
"From the feedback we received from those who attended our public meetings, it generally seemed that those on the Mesa and in the mountain schools seemed to favor a four-day week," Lere told the Chieftain.
Lere said the school district plans more research before deciding next year's calendar. But officials don't have that much time. Calendars for the following school years are usually done by late March, though Lere said Pueblo's 2009-2010 calendar won't be decided until April this year.
Information from: The Pueblo Chieftain, http://www.chieftain.com