GROVE CITY -- The Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School Board voted unanimously Monday to implement a four-day school week this fall.
The move is estimated to save the district $64,000 each year, primarily in transportation costs.
The savings will be part of the district's efforts to cut nearly $150,000 in expenditures from the 2010-11 school year and a larger effort to keep it from sliding back into statutory operating debt in two years. While acknowledging there will be challenges in adapting to the new schedule, chairwoman Judy Raske said the lack of state and federal money for education means ACGC needs to make drastic changes "to survive as a viable district."
The new calendar is a "good step to save us some serious money," board member John Cunningham said.
Raske predicted the new calendar will have long-term positive effects for the district financially and academically. The change would not be made if the board didn't believe it would be good for students, she said.
The decision was not easy for some board members. Saying she felt like she was being "blackmailed," Jeanna Lilleberg said she was frustrated with comments from some parents who threatened to pull their children out of ACGC if the four-day schedule was adopted.
"I have lost a lot of sleep over this," said Lilleberg, who struggled to keep back tears.
Joel Gratz said he's concerned the "family structure will get stressed" by the new schedule but said he didn't know how else the district could gain consistent savings. "This will come at sacrifice, no doubt," said Gratz.
Janell Johnson said she hopes there's an "understanding" with teachers not to give too much homework to student at the end of the longer days.
Under the preliminary plan, students will attend school Tuesday through Friday for 144 days. They currently go 173 days.
High school students will begin classes at 8:20 a.m. and end at 3:50 p.m. The elementary schools will begin earlier and end later.
Although students will go to school fewer days, they will actually be in class for 336 more minutes per year.
The plan will now be submitted to the state Department of Education for approval.
The board agreed to seek a three-year approval for the new calendar, but said it could be stopped earlier if there were negative results.
In case the state does not give its blessing, the ACGC School Board also approved a calendar that calls for a regular five-day week.
The school board held three community meetings which generated questions, concerns and support for the plan.
Residents also filled out an online survey that helped the board reach a decision. Of the 116 responses, 60 were had an "unqualified" positive view, 34 were "clearly opposed" and 22 were mixed, said Dan Tait, the district's business manager.