Fallon schools researching four-day week

FALLON " The Churchill County School District is looking at ways to save money by reducing the amount of time schools would be open.

Faced with possible future budget cuts, the state has directed the district to prepare for a 14 percent decrease.

Churchill County School District Superintendent Carolyn Ross asked Western Nevada Regional Training Program Director Roy Casey to examine four-day work weeks for schools. Casey said the idea of reducing school weeks to four days is nothing new, and mentioned schools in Eureka, Austin and Lund have already done so. He added rural schools are implementing the shortened week.

Jim Rickley, principal of Austin High School in Lander County, said this is the first year Austin has implemented the four-day week, but added it was wanted for five years, and the teacher's association finally agreed to it.

Students at the high school attend classes from 7:40 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and, Rickley said, it made little sense to have school on Friday when 90 percent of the students were away for athletic events.

"When we go to a game it is an over-nighter," he said, adding the high school is a 1A school.

The Austin principal said the only concern from parents is not having full-day kindergarten, which the Legislature voted down.

No one was available to speak at the Eureka School District, but a secretary said its enrollment is 230 students.

The Churchill County School District, as of Monday afternoon, had an enrollment of 4,374 students.

What Casey will report to Ross is the savings and impacts it would have on learning and teaching. He also will get feedback from the public, which Casey thinks will take eight to 12 days.

The Western Nevada Regional Training Program provides training to the Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Lyon and Mineral county school districts, and Casey is examining their needs, too.

Casey will give his research to Ross in February, and he thinks it will reveal significant savings. He said closing school operations one day a week will reduce utility and fuel costs.

He added there would be no need to have the kitchens and cafeteria open on these days.

The school days would be extended by about two hours. Schools are required to teach a number of hours, not days.

He said preliminary numbers show students learn under this environment, mentioning schools in Nevada doing this made adequate yearly progress.

Ross said the idea is another option the school district has to consider and study.

"All of our costs have gone through the roof," she said. "We are in the (process) of trying to present options. This is another option."

She added since the district tightened its belts so much, cuts like these need to be discussed.

Assistant Superintendent Scott Meihack said if the idea became a reality, the district would need to negotiate new language into upcoming teacher contracts, a process that could start at any time.

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