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ACGC rushes to complete four-day application

ACGC Superintendent Sherri Broderius looks over paperwork Tuesday the district must sent to the state Department of Education for approval of its four-day schedule. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

GROVE CITY -- The day after the ACGC School Board approved a plan to implement a four-day-a-week school calendar this fall, Superintendent Sherri Broderius was fielding calls from other Minnesota school districts looking for advice on how to create a similar plan.

After doing an interview with public radio, she also took a handful of calls from parents who are now considering open enrolling their children into ACGC because they like the idea.

And in the whirl of activity in her office Tuesday, Broderius was trying desperately to give her attention to a large three-ring binder full of forms and questions that need to be completed and submitted for approval to the state Department of Education before the district can officially move ahead with their new format in September.

The "flexible learning year" application is not something that can be done overnight.

There are 15 different components to the application that requires financial analysis and documentation of ACGC's proposal.

Broderius has set a deadline of April 1 to get the paperwork done. She plans to drive to St. Paul and deliver the application to the office of Alice Seagren, state commissioner of education. The rush, she said, is because she wants to get ACGC's application on Seagren's desk before applications from a growing number of school districts get there.

Based on the phone calls she's been getting and the buzz around the state, Broderius said the number of schools going to a four-day week is "mushrooming."

She said the number of districts exploring this option is "growing so fast" that it might be easier if every school went to a four-day week.

That, Broderius said, would show state lawmakers that schools "do need money."

The sooner the paperwork is reviewed and a state decision is made, the sooner ACGC can put its plan into motion.

The plan, which would begin this fall, calls for students to be in school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. It would mean the students will actually spend about 336 more minutes a year in the classroom even though they'll be in school 29 fewer days.

ACGC hopes to save about $64,000 a year from an $8 million budget.

The district is looking for any way to save a penny. It got out of statutory operating debt last year and could possibly slide right back into it in the next two years.

The fund balance is so slim, the district's bank account has to be looked at before a check is written. The district may also have to take out a short-term loan to meet payroll this year.

More than half of the savings from the four-day plan will come from reduced transportation costs. Because the cost of fuel fluctuates, those savings will also change annually.

School administrators also say having most Monday's off will likely result in fewer staff absences, which will create savings with fewer substitute teachers.

The school board, administrators and staff are not only hoping to save money but to make gains in school academics.

Calling it the "power of the time we have with kids each day," Broderius is convinced the longer class times will actually improve education in the district.

"I really do," she said emphatically. "I am so excited about this."

During meetings this week with staff, she is challenging them to find ways to "enrich and reinforce" the curriculum and find ways to apply the lessons to "real life" in the new parameters of a four-day week.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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