Onamia is eighth district to move to four-day weeks

There now at least eight school districts in Minnesota that plan to operate on four-day weeks this fall.

The latest district to move to the four-day school week is Onamia, in central Minnesota. Its board recently approved the move, with the aim being to both save money and increase staff development time.

One issue in the four-day debate is whether parents will find day care on that fifth day. Onamia superintendent John Varner said his district will use a federal grant to offer activities on those days.

"It has the same effect as daycare, except it's organized and educationally oriented," Varner said. "That's huge for a lot of our students in poverty; they really need that alternative exposure beyond the classroom."

Varner also said the four-day week will allow for more staff development time on those days off, and it will also save an estimated $100,000 a year.

"It was either save money going to a four-day week, or start cutting those very important electives that make a high school what it is - band, music, tech education, woodshop," he said. "We feel that's every bit as important to the high school experience as math, science and English."

In addition to Onamia, the other districts that will be on the four-day schedule next year are ACGC, Blackduck, Clearbrook-Gonvick, MACCRAY, North Branch and Warroad.

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