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The exterior of the ACGC North Elementary School building in Atwater is pictured. The ACGC School District will begin a four-day week Tuesday in an effort to reduce some of its operating expenses. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Communication blitz prepares ACGC for 4-day week

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GROVE CITY -- Community meetings, special mailings, website information and calendars clearly marking which days there will be school and which days there won't have prepared the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District for its new four-day school week.

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"We've been very cognizant that everyone got the information at least twice," said Superintendent Sherri Broderius.

"I really feel like we're ready to go," said Broderius, who nonetheless suspects there will be a few surprises to work out with the new schedule.

"But there are always surprises in a five-day week," she said. "I think this is going to work."

Part of that confidence stems from the extra efforts school staff members have taken to inform students and parents about the changes to their schedule, which includes a Tuesday through Friday school week and classes that begin around 8 a.m. and end around 4 p.m.

Special, full-sized calendars that have the designated school days shaded in gray were mailed to high school students and handed out to other students during school open houses.

School staff made a point to get as much information as possible distributed about the daily class schedule, lunch times and bus times to ensure that parents and students would know the game plan before Tuesday's school start.

The inside page of the "ACGC Information Highway" book lists the exact times of each longer class period at the Junior/Senior High School and when lunch and recess will be at the elementary schools.

So far the only concern she's heard is that the eight-hour class day -- plus the time for bus rides to and from school -- will make for some long days for young students.

Broderius asks that people not make a judgment on that for a couple weeks because, she said, "everybody's tired the first two weeks of school" no matter what the schedule is.

She's hoping that once families get in the groove, the kids will adapt.

"I am waiting for Sept. 7 like all school personnel, and let's just see how this rolls out," she said. "Most of all I want this to work for our kids and families."

The change to a four-day week was made in an attempt to trim costs for the district, which emerged two years ago from statutory operating debt. The district expects to save at least $64,000, with more than half coming from reduced busing expenses.

"Statutory operating debt" is a term that means a district is deficit spending beyond levels allowed by the state. A district in statutory operating debt has to implement a plan approved by the state Department of Education to rectify the situation.

The ACGC School Board began looking at a four-day week "after several years of being in SOD (statutory operating debt) and coming out of SOD and making over a million dollars in cuts at that time," said Broderius.

The district was forced to ask itself "where else do we cut," she said.

In order to save education programs, the number of days was cut.

Having watched the nearby MCCRAY School District successfully maneuver through the transition to a four-day schedule increased confidence that it could work at ACGC.

But Broderius is convinced there will be more than financial benefits, including increased educational opportunities.

She's challenging teachers to use the extra class time each day for enrichment, reinforcement and application of lessons.

"This extra time isn't going to be study hall time," she said, nor will it be a time for teachers to pile on more homework. Finding that happy medium "will be a balancing act," she said.

Even though the calendar is four days a week, Broderius said students and teachers may actually be in school more days than with the five-day system because there will be fewer absences.

She's hearing from parents and teachers who are making medical and dental appointments on Mondays so that they don't miss a day of school.

"When I can have teachers in the classroom 25 percent more, that's huge," she said. "And the same with kids. That's also huge."

There may be special community recreation classes and teacher in-service programs offered on Mondays that will also benefit kids and teachers.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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