NB superintendent recaps four-day week

North Branch Area Public Schools Superintendent Deb Henton gave her last report on the four-day school week at Thursday’s School Board meeting.

The district will be going back to the five-day week next year due to changes in the state school funding formula that gives more authority to school boards use non-voter-approved levies. North Branch Schools is using that new money to address operating costs.

Henton said the district implemented the four-day week in the 2010-2011 school year because it was unable to pass levies and it was receiving inadequate funding from the state.

“At that time, we projected $175,000 a year in savings, and that savings would grow over time,” Henton said.

She said the district saved money in transportation and energy, and the frequency of substitutes being used decreased because staff attendance improved on the four-day school week.

She said the most amount of concern about the four-day week came from people who thought it would affect student achievement and discipline.

She said student achievement fluctuated over that time, as is to be expected in any district, but overall the schools did well under the four-day week.

Sunrise River Elementary School was even named a reward school, the top level that a school receiving Title 1 funding can achieve.

Henton said the amount of disciplinary action needed at the district’s schools was less under the four-day week; she asked the North Branch Police Chief to supply a report to the district every year during that time that detailed incidences of crime in the city to see if students being off school an extra day impacted the amount of overall crime in North Branch.

“We’ve seen a decrease every year in the incidences of crime, which is a great thing for our community,” she said.

During the four-year period of the four-day week, Henton said the district saved about $938,000.

“The bulk of that came from transportation savings,” she said, noting that the district was able to also save some money by cutting custodial and support staff because of the buildings being used one less day per week.

However, she said the total amount the district saved is difficult to calculate.

“It’s hard to know exactly what we saved because it is hard to keep track of the number of students who came into the district or left because of the four-day week,” she said. “We know people left the district because of the four-day week.”

Henton also noted student and staff surveys conducted at various intervals during the four-day week showed students and staff were “highly in favor” of it, but the community was split on the issue.

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