North Branch schools move to four-day week

Another Minnesota school district is moving to a four-day school week. The North Branch School Board ordered district leaders on Thursday night to craft next year's budget to include the four-day week.

The aim is to save the district in the north metro suburbs an estimated $156,000 through fewer bus runs, lower energy costs and less need for substitute teachers.

North Branch Superintendent Deb Henton says the district's enrollment is declining, and voters have rejected several excess funding property tax levies.

"We needed to look for savings that we can point to, year after year ... and the four-day week is one of those options," said Henton. "We're also looking at closing a school and we will be cutting teachers, so even with the four-day week we'll be cutting teachers and closing a school."

Four other districts in Minnesota already operate on four-day weeks -- Ogilvie, Blackduck, Warroad and MACCRAY. With state funding mostly flat in recent years, districts say their operating costs are increasing, which is why more of them are considering the change.

The Clearbrook-Gonvick and Cook County districts are also studying the four-day week, though Cook County wouldn't move to the new schedule until 2011.

For North Branch, the four-day week would be put in place for the 2010-2011 school year, but it won't be official until the school board approves the district's budget for the upcoming year. That vote is expected on March 18. The district also needs approval from the state Department of Education for the move.

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