Board opts for 4-day school week

Sean C. Morgan

The District 55 School Board voted 5-3 Monday night, Feb. 13, to approve a four-day school week beginning next school year.

Following months of discussion, the board voted with no further discussion during its regular meeting on Monday. Dale Keene moved to approve the four-day week, and Mike Reynolds gave a second.

Voting yes were Keene, Reynolds, Chairman Jason Redick, Jenny Daniels and Mike E. Adams.

Voting no were Chanz Keeney, David VanDerlip and Kevin Burger. Billie Weber was absent, but she had previously voiced opposition to the proposal.

Later, during board comments, Chanz Keeney protested the speed of the vote.

Usually, he said, the chairman asks if there are any questions. This time, he was distracted by Adams, who was at the board meeting remotely by using Skype and he didn’t get a chance to respond because he believed Redick had closed the questions and called for a vote more quickly than usual.

Redick said he gave it the same amount of time as usual, and if it was quicker, he certainly hadn’t been meant to cut off discussion or questions.

“I am really disappointed,” Keeney said. “Our surveys we sent out – the public said, no, we want to keep a five-day school week.”

If other options for saving money were listed and available on the survey, Keeney believes that the four-day week would have had less public support, he said. “I haven’t heard any regular folks out there say they wanted a four-day school week. I don’t feel they are going to support that. You haven’t let anything else in. This was rushed through. I feel there was probably more input that should have been given.”

Several members of the audience applauded.

“I’m going to excuse myself from the board meeting,” Keeney said and then left followed by a half dozen members of the audience.

The four-day week was among a list of options meant to cut next year’s budget. The district faces an estimated funding gap of about $1 million.

Supt. Don Schrader is anticipating savings of $340,000 by implementing a four-day week.

Meanwhile, Business Mana-ger Kevin Strong told the board that about $1.045 million of its $1.721 million in cuts for this school year were one-time savings, such as furlough days, no step increases for staff and drawing down long-term savings funds. Approximately $658,000 is sustainable savings.

“One of the decisions will be do we go for one-time savings versus sustainable savings,” Strong said.

Redick said he supported the four-day week because “it’s the least impactful out of all the options. That’s my personal opinion.”

Keene echoed his comment.

Next up, the district will need to sit down with licensed and classified staff and look at the proposed calendar, Schrader said. The board is getting a meeting set up with the licensed staff in March to begin bargaining, and this will be one of the main items.

The board will have to bargain some issues with the classified as well, Schrader said. For example, some employees are six-hour employees by contract. Under the new schedule, they may be seven-hour employees because the school day will be longer.

“I’m sure other things will pop up,” Schrader said.

Schrader thinks that the community could be more supportive of a four-day week now, he said. If he had to do it again, he thinks he would have run the survey right before this meeting because the information available to the public earlier was limited.

Schrader’s proposed calendar includes 17 in-service days scheduled on Fridays for teachers and some classified, he said. “Our administrators are really excited about the training opportunities with staff.”

Right now, they can’t find the time, and they’re going to need it as they begin dealing with Common Core Curriculum guidelines, Schrader said. That’s also going to add hours back for some classified staff members, and the district plans on pursuing grants to fund the training.

In other business, the board:

n Unanimously adopted a resolution placing a local option levy on the May 15 ballot to raise 32 cents per $1,000 of valuation to fund pool operations.

The proposal is for two years and would raise some $90,000 annually.

n Denied an open enrollment option to students outside the district, the same position taken by the Lebanon and Albany school districts regarding a new law allowing inter-district transfers. The board voted unanimously.

n Restored Food Services Supervisor Millie Horton to full-time from .85 full-time equivalent. Her hours were reduced voluntarily to help cover funding shortfalls, but her workload has required her to work full-time, Schrader told the board. The board voted 8-0 to restore her position.

n Approved the resignation of Kim Gillis, speech and language pathologist, effective at the end of the school year.

n Changed Seth Johnson’s resignation date from March 4 to June 15. Johnson is the High School alternative education teacher.

n Declared as surplus 13 foldable tables at Hawthorne School.

n Approved and appropriated an $888 Linn-Benton-Lincoln Education Service District grant to be used to develop a high school transition program.