In last week’s article “NB council discusses impact of four-day school week on city,” members of the city council made misleading statements about the four-day week. One such comment implied that because of the four-day week teachers “have to work twice as hard” to get students to retain information. According to a survey crafted by teachers for teachers, over 80 percent of teaching staff believe they have been able to cover just as much or more curriculum than in a five-day week. Contrary to the statement made at the meeting, students are covering just as much, or more, ground in a year than prior to a four-day week.
Had we been invited to participate in the city’s discussion, I could have informed the city council that many business owners tell me they have improved business on Mondays and access to a larger, more diverse workforce on Mondays than before. We know many of our high school students take advantage of Mondays to put in work hours and make more money. If the question is whether the four-day week is “good for the city” it would seem that higher receipts on an otherwise slow day, an improved work force, and more disposable income among younger citizens, is a good thing for all of us.
It is important for the city council to keep in mind that it was a lack of growth that spurred budget cuts to begin with, spurred our community to demand creative ways to do more with less, and ultimately spurred the four-day week as a solution. In other words, the four-day week did not create a growth problem, a growth problem created the four-day week. Local growth issues manifested in enrollment declines here starting in the fall of 2004, long before the four-day week.
So, it is disheartening to read that at least one elected city official “has a feeling” the four-day week is hurting the city even after city department heads stated there is no evidence to suggest such is the case. The school district has realized operational savings of roughly $500,000 in two years of a four-day week. This is an extraordinary amount of money that has saved 6-8 teacher positions in the last two years and has allowed the school district to mitigate increases to class size. We took that step because our community told us we needed to do whatever it takes to preserve funding for the classroom.
When the city council plays fast and loose with facts around the four-day week, it is those savings, those teaching positions, and the education of a generation of this community’s children that are at stake. And, unlike the city, the school district must ask the taxpayers to provide those resources.
We all want a strong community and strong schools. North Branch Area Public Schools does its part by getting the most out of the funding it receives. We owe that to our taxpayers. The city can do its part by finding ways to create the growth that has been absent for many years. However, we don’t believe faulting a two-year old schedule for a decade-old problem will produce results in that area.
I remain committed to having an open, mutually beneficial relationship with the city of North Branch. It is in everyone’s best interests for us to work together to create a brighter future for all citizens. If the city council wants to learn more about the four-day week, ask questions, or express concerns, I would invite the opportunity to dialogue on the subject.