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Originally published December 26, 2011 at 11:00 AM | Page modified December 27, 2011 at 8:36 AM

Eatonville considers 4-day school week

The Eatonville school district is considering a four-day school week with longer days as a way to cut spending.

The Associated Press

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EATONVILLE — The Eatonville school district is considering a four-day school week with longer days as a way to cut spending.

The move would cut 30 days from the school calendar, while cutting about $200,000 from the district's operating budget of $18 million, The News-Tribune reported in Monday's newspaper.

Most savings would come by cutting a day's food service, utility costs and busing every week, Eatonville Superintendent Rich Stewart said. And in the 460-square-mile district, transportation is expensive.

The savings would be used to expand the district's all-day kindergarten programs.

"It isn't just about the money," said school-board member Ronda Litzenberger. "The possibility of kindergarten for a full day could help a whole generation to move forward."

But such changes to the school calendar would require a change in state law. State Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, is working on the legislation.

A state law passed in 2009 already allows four-day school weeks on a trial basis in a handful of financially strapped Washington school districts with fewer than 500 students.

Becker didn't support the legislation that allowed the pilot program two years ago, but she has reconsidered.

"It's a great opportunity for districts," she said.

Stewart emphasized Eatonville officials have made no decisions concerning a shorter school week in five schools.

A committee of district employees, parents and students began studying the issue in the fall. A series of community meetings is planned for January. The school board isn't expected to vote until at least April.

The proposal would lengthen school days by an hour and eliminate late-start days on Wednesday. The net result, Stewart said, could mean a slight increase in instructional time.

Teachers would not see their pay shrink because they would teach at least the same number of hours per year — or slightly more. Staff meetings and training sessions could occur on the weekday that kids aren't in school, but parents may have some issues with the change.

Two rural Eastern Washington districts with fewer than 150 students that are trying a four-day week presented information on their experiences at a statewide meeting of school officials in November.

The Paterson and Bickelton districts both reported positive effects, including lower absenteeism among both teachers and students. They speculate kids and teachers are able to schedule medical and other appointments on their Fridays off.

Becker said 21 states, including Oregon, already allow districts the option of running shorter school weeks.

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