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Keystone Oaks Considers Four-Day Week

Revamping the district schedule would save money, officials said.

Keystone Oaks officials are considering going to a four-day school week to help save money, according to Superintendent Bill Urbanek.

The district has already sent a letter ask Gov. Tom Corbett about the possibility of getting the 180-day policy waived.

“Since he announced his budget, the governor has been quoted several times that he’d pretty much waive anything,” Urbanek said.

If the district gets the go-ahead to pilot the four-day week, it could be the first or among the first to do so in the state. No other school in Pennsylvania currently operates on a four-day week, but two Philadelphia area schools are considering it, according to the state Department of Education.

It would work this way: Instead of 1,000 hours of classroom instruction spread over 180 days of Mondays through Fridays, students would attend school Tuesdays through Fridays, but with secondary school days extended by 30 minutes. Elementary school days would be extended by 20 minutes.

“Administrators fell in love with the idea,” Urbanek said.

The move would save on several expenses, especially overhead and transportation costs, he said.

Teacher in-service days and make-up days would be on Mondays, according to spokesman Jim Cromie.

But the proposal raises its share of questions, including how it would affect working families and if any contractual issues might arise with unions.

“I’d like to know what parents think,” said Marian Randazzo, a school director from Castle Shannon. “I imagine it would be a hardship for some.”

But she and other board members agreed it was worth looking into.

The National School Boards Association reports 120 school districts operate on a four-day week nationwide.

Urbanek said he put in a call to a Minnesota school district, which works on a four-day week, to see how the change was implemented there. And district solicitor Ira Weiss said he would check into any contractual issues, federal regulations and waiver laws.

Some board members raised concerns about how the change might affect activities, athletics and academics.

Keystone Oaks has the latest morning start of any high school in Allegheny County, Urbanek said. Adding 30 minutes to the school day would offer a little more time for classes with labs, he said.

“The pluses outweigh the negatives,” said John Neuhaus, a school board member from Castle Shannon.

Sophomore Kiara Kennelly said she would adjust to a four-day week.

“I am an active person outside of school along with my school activities. I wouldn’t mind as long as it wouldn’t conflict with my (extracurricular activities),” she said.

Senior Rachel Geraci said she’d be OK with it but would prefer having Fridays off instead of Mondays, unlike the district’s preference of using Mondays because they honor many national holidays.

“Hopefully (high school students) would be able to take more electives with the extra time that they’d have. If this would save the arts program from crumbling, then I’m all for it,” she said.

Senior Jonathan Welch said while he wouldn’t mind going an extra half-hour to have a three-day weekend, it might not be the best idea, adding that it might have an adverse effect on district athletics.

“Also a work week is Monday through Friday. Why should a school week be any different? Isn’t the point of school to prepare the students for the work world?” he said.

Senior Amanda Stefanowicz also said she wouldn’t mind staying longer but cutting a whole day and replacing it with two hours is “silly.”

“My classes already struggle to finish the curriculum each year, especially my A.P. classes. There’s not much we can really get done in a 42-minute period, and there is always something interrupting class,” she said.

A lot of other kids might like it, she said, but not the honors students who often have to work overtime to catch up to other schools, she said.

“I’m sure there are a lot of other options for saving money without sacrificing education. We are a school first, and we need to focus on that,” she said.

Max Gawryla May 19, 2011 at 07:43 PM
I am a junior at Keystone Oaks. I personally think shortening the week is a fantastic idea. However, like Amanda said, it is silly to replace eight hours with only four IS silly. But an extension of eight hours (like the ones we would have lost) would be great. Instead of adding only a half hour and adding a whole hour would be better than having a whole other day as many classes take five or ten minutes to actually get started after attendance is taken and everything is all set up. I really like this idea and I'd love to see this go through!
David N. Hommrich May 19, 2011 at 07:49 PM
Looking forward to it, Candy. Here is what I think would be most helpful if you have any luck getting the information. a.) An estimate of the annual savings from a 4 day week b.) The millage increase that would be necessary to get the same $$$ benefit as the 4 day week b.) What that millage increase would mean to a homeowner with a $100,000 home (as an example). With these three pieces of information, working parents can make an informed decision. I can see already that there are many different points of view on this topic. Before this discussion goes much further, it is really important that we understand the financial implications.
Gretchen May 19, 2011 at 08:06 PM
I'm not asking the district to provide daycare. You missed my point. My point was IF the district goes to a 4 day week, then it is MY responsibility to find care for my child at MY expense. I will do that if that is what is best for the district, I was only pointing out that it will be an additional expense for me and was hoping that before the district makes any kind of decision like that, then they will consider all angles/problems.
Megan Opferman May 19, 2011 at 08:11 PM
I am a junior at Keystone Oaks and I personally think that making a 4 day week is amazing. The students are really struggling to finish all the school work they recieve over the weekend into 2 days, with 3 days they would be able to finish their work and still have some time to spare. With the 4 day week also students wouldn't have to wait a 1/2 and hour between the end of the day and their after school activities that begin at 3pm. Another thing a 4 days week would improve would be attendance. If we had a 4 day week more students would actually come to school instead of just skipping. I think this idea is fabulous and i feel it would be a wonderful improvement for the Keystone Oaks School District.
Dan Domalik May 19, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Full disclosure - Dave Hommrich and I are candidates for KO school board. We won our primary bids on Tuesday so we hope to continue these kinds of discussions with all of you as school directors. In fact, I pledge to remain active in discussion boards (like this one), Facebook, email, public meetings, and every other way I can think of to stay connected to KO residents in all communities. It should be very easy to get my attention, and I'll respond to all as best I can! As a taxpayer and KO parent myself, that's what I expect of school directors. I think this discussion chain has already generated some great ideas and debate. I fully believe that is the process for getting to the right solutions for KO. The smart ideas being discussed above show how, working together, KO will make great leaps forward. Dave and I plan on posting a lot more District information publicly (without Open Records Requests needed!) so we can all discuss the facts together. I'm sure it will be hard to find solutions that please everyone 100% of the time. But at least everyone will know all of the facts in advance and will know their opinions were heard and considered. I'll post my thoughts on the 4-day idea below.
Laurie May 19, 2011 at 08:29 PM
David, I'd just like to say thank you for asking for these details to inform the discussion. It would also be nice to see a comparison of how much money this plan saves versus some of the other plans that have been floated around on this discussion (partial consolidation, budget cuts, etc). As a working parent I will admit that at first glance I was not thrilled by this proposal, but given some of the commentary here and reading the Time article that another commenter referenced, I'm reasonable enough to consider it, especially if it's the best scenario for maximum education AND cost savings given all the facts. And then I just might quit my job and open the only One-Day only daycare in the KO school district.....business opportunity!!!!
Dan Domalik May 19, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Complex problems rarely have simple solutions. Most of the time, the solutions have strong positives and equally strong negatives. The 4-day school week certainly fits that mold. I agree with the financial data request made by Dave Hommrich above. I'll add a few more items needed (some stolen from other posters above) to make an informed decision (and probably think of 5 more after I post...) 1. % of KO families who would likely incur added childcare expenses 2. Average amount of increased childcare expenses for families who need it 3. Change in total instructional time 4. Impact on educational programming caused by #3. 5. Impacts from contractual changes (sounds like the solicitor is looking into this) 6. Summary of lessons learned in the 120 districts who are using the 4-day week 7. Changes to athletic/extracurricular activities 8. Possible uses for the buildings on Monday when students are off (new revenue?) 9. Estimate of net gain/loss of students caused by this change and impact on charter school tuition costs to KO. The Board should do some serious homework on these and other questions, as well as engage the KO community, before taking this idea any further.
kmj May 19, 2011 at 08:49 PM
EXACTLY Gretchen!
Jeff May 19, 2011 at 09:07 PM
But isn't it better to introduce the option now and have some discussion rather than make it a last minute suggestion? I agree though that we need to know what the actual benefit is before deciding.
Jeff May 19, 2011 at 09:17 PM
Very well put CMU Girl. There are very destructive and nasty comments going around that get nowhere. Some are acting like this is a done deal. Change is coming in some form whether you like it or not. Try being constructive and voicing your opinion, not blasting and insulting people who are at least throwing suggestions out there for debate. I don't like some of these options either, but understand that options are running out. If you feel that strongly against the borough or the school district, you can always move!
David N. Hommrich May 19, 2011 at 09:42 PM
You're right, Jeff.......it doesn't hurt to discuss it. Just hate to get everyone all worked up, only to find out that the savings aren't really that substantial. I'll be real interested in seeing a breakdown of the savings. I'm having trouble picturing where the benefits will come from. I'm sure that teacher's salaries will stay the same, as will their benefits. I guess the district could back off on HVAC on Mondays, and that would help a little. I guess cleaning expenses would drop too. We'll see. Hope they decide to share with us, as there are CLEARLY a lot of interested residents with an opinion on this topic.
Gina Dedig May 19, 2011 at 09:54 PM
I'm so happy I voted for Dan & Dave! Their fresh ideas are just what this stale district needs!
Kristen Pauchnik May 19, 2011 at 10:46 PM
It would be great to see all of you, who have posted today, at the School Board Meeting - tonight 7:30 p.m. Without your presence and questions being asked by ALL of you, the Board tends to be apathetic and thinks no one cares or is paying attention. I attend the meetings monthly. While many are tedious and, at times, boring. The same 5 -6 people are always there and we can only share our views in person. Put pressure on the Board by attending meetings. I believe the 4-day/week item is on the agenda tonight! Hope to see you there!
Dadof2 May 20, 2011 at 02:41 AM
We moved to KO several years ago in part of its proximity to downtown Pittsburgh. While I loved that the elementary classes were small, I'm disappointed in the size of the middle and high school classes. How fair is it to the students that they have to be in classes with more than 30 kids at times?? Perhaps one of the elementary schools SHOULD be closed and the 6th grade SHOULD be moved to an intermediate school. This could free up the middle and high school teachers' schedules to allow for smaller sections of courses instead of cramming them all into one. My child also heard they're not replacing most of the retiring teachers and will be cutting classes. Again I ask how fair is that to the students??
Bob Dini May 20, 2011 at 02:56 AM
Dan, Congratulations on your results Tuesday, you will bring a well versed ,open minded viewpoint to the school board. As we found as members of the KO Task Force, the financial challenges are numerous and with the most recent State budget, will present greater challenges. I believe all options are being floated to test the pulse of the residents but additionally, this Board and the Superintendent is attempting to find solutions regardless of how painful it may seem to some. There will be changes in the configuration of this school district in the next 5 years, guaranteed. But maybe some of the ideas such as reconfiguration,4 days weeks, and ideas noted here will create a more lean, progressive, opportunity laden District that many will recognize as a great choice. I could never envision cyber schools as a real solution, hibernating an already secluded Gen Z's in front of a screen more and denying further social interaction. We all need to stay open minded to our District's future as difficult as change is, it allows for growth. Let's make certain growth and opportunity for our children are at the core of all decisions. The Patch forum can be a real asset for open sharing of ideas allowing for out of the box thinking, instead of a stream of negative consciousness. Keep the ideas flowing.
dormonter May 20, 2011 at 04:10 AM
Love that the school board is being creative. As long as the children don't lose instructional time I'm OK with it. I would also like the board to consider having a few number of classes per day with more time spent on a subject at least in high school. As one of the students above pointed out 42 minutes isn't long enough to cover alot of info. Kids spend a good portion of the day walking thru the halls to get to the next class, without much time to delve deep into a topic. Would save a great deal of money on transportation and utilities. Considering the price of gas, why not put the money toward the actual education and not the buses and buildings if possible? I like the idea as posed above with year-round, rotating school. No reason that today's kids should go to school based on the agrarian calendar. Many families that don't have traditional full-time, daylight M-F schedules anyway. Many work other hours and days, or work from home. The 75 or more percentage of people in the district without children already pay for the education, and can't afford higher taxes. Your kid is sick, you make arrangements. Snow days? Same thing. At least parents can plan for these days off. I'd like to know exactly how many Mondays in the year children have school . Take out at least 4 holidays and Christmas and Easter break, and summer, I bet the total number is much smaller than expected. In the US, kids don't spend much time in school at all.
Joe Hartnett May 20, 2011 at 04:39 AM
I don't know if this entire 4 day week discussion is now a moot point, because at tonight's meeting the KO board blind-sided us with a vote to begin the school closure process for Myrtle and Aiken. The vote wasn't listed on the official agenda - it was a secretive last minute addendum. This lack of transparency is just another example of how they treat us with disrespect, as opposed to adults and taxpayers. Instead of trying to explain how pushing 4-5 in the middle school, and 7-8 into the high school is a good idea, we just get blind-sided. Instead of doing a study of the negative possibilities of consolidation - namely skyrocketing property tax if there is a mass exodus to charter and cyber schools, as well as drastic program cuts (think Ligonier Valley School District - Google it), they just plod on. And for this to happen just 48 hours after the election just stinks of spitefulness. June 8th is the date for the public hearing - hope most of you can make it.
Anthony Brown May 20, 2011 at 04:09 PM
I agree with the earlier comment that a "tracking " system may be a better alternative. I would love for our local schools look into this as the savings and results from the schools out west that have implemented the system, have on their face, been impressive. Schools are in session year round - with set tracks (your variant aged children would be placed on the same track) with 8 weeks on 2 off- or 10 weeks on 3 off- teachers included. results show higher education retention vs sticking with the old agrarian set-up that we are accustomed to.
Anthony Brown May 20, 2011 at 04:12 PM
I agree with the earlier comment that a "tracking " system may be a better alternative. I would love for our local schools to look into this as the savings and results from the schools out west that have implemented the system, have on their face, been impressive. Schools are in session year round - with set tracks (your variant aged children would be placed on the same track) with 8 weeks on 2 off- or 10 weeks on 3 off- teachers included. results show higher education retention vs sticking with the old agrarian set-up that we are accustomed to. Also- the tracks overlap in most districts - so approx. 25% of the population is out and you lower facilities charges vs building more and more classrooms that sit idle for a significant portion of the year.
Fred Dougherty May 21, 2011 at 12:14 AM
I have two kids at KO and i dont think 5 days is enough. If anything i would consider changing to a 6 day schedule. Keystone Oaks' education is lacking and I think more time in the classroom would really benefit the kids, and plus they would be out of the house more which is always a good thing. 5 days is short enough, but 4 days is rediculous!!!!
Kathy Morgan May 23, 2011 at 09:16 AM
I have a daughter just finishing up 8th grade at the middle school and I disagree with the comment by Fred Dougherty. I think K.O. is a solid middle class school district and they are always trying to improve their educational endeavors. I have been very pleased by the majority of the teachers my daughter has been fortunate to have over the years. I am fairly sure you would not want to work 6 days a week if you had to, so why would our children want to attend school 6 days a week? I agree with some of the statements regarding the impact a 4 day school week would have on families that would require childcare. Let's face it, most of us work 5 days a week and it is a typical Monday through Friday work week. This would certainly effect family dynamics without a doubt. We should be given all the facts, get the numbers together so the residents can see what the savings would be for a 4 day school week. We are all in this together, so let's have a positive outlook and work together to make an informed decision.
confused student May 23, 2011 at 12:40 PM
oh great another dumb idea by ko. its always about the money today
Jack May 26, 2011 at 12:34 AM
I would love if my son had a 4 day school week. I would work 4 days a week and my wife can work 4 days a week. I would rather see it Monday thru Thursday though. A 3 day weekend would be great and we could leave on thursday nights when there is less traffic than on fridays. I also understand this may be hard for others, but I am just commenting on our situation. So, in short, my wife and I are all for a 4 day school week Monday thru Thursday.
Eric May 26, 2011 at 03:12 AM
Maybe if employers follow suit, it could be 4 day work weeks for all. Seriously though, I would not like to see a four day week - namely because of needing to find childcare that fifth day. Traditionally, the school and work weeks have been built around each other. Many parents would be put out by a four day week. It would be interesting to see survey results of parents feelings toward this. What about eliminating busing? What works for rural districts is going to 4 days because it saves a lot of transportation costs; however, KO is not a rural district. In a suburban environment, where many parents work professional job hours, and we have the luxury of sidewalks, is there any reason KO cannot be a walking district? Especially since there is a model for that right next door.
Bill Wolf May 26, 2011 at 01:52 PM
Only someone who does not have to worry about paying for daycare would make a comment such as this. When you have to pay $40 - $50 per day per child to go to day care just so you can work, then you won't be saying that. How many mercedes or bmw's do you see at the school boards? Cut salaries of the rich involved. I LOVE football. I grew up playing football, but was that fancy stadium necessary? The team can be good without it. Foolish decisions are made about budget and they are made at a closed-minded point of view. They need to get out, and live like the rest and see the challenges of an average person. Walk a mile in someone else's shoes and then make decisions. I would bet the decisions would be much different.
Jack May 31, 2011 at 12:13 AM
I totally agree with this, we need more information, and I would not want our children's education to suffer, I would hope that they consider the education and the all the programs. Another thing to consider is how tired our children will be with a longer day. This would be an adjustment for all. I just don't see how all the programs will fit into 4 days, I feel something is going to give. I don't want our children's education to suffer or any programs or subjects to have less time spent on them.
Jack May 31, 2011 at 12:16 AM
I totallly agree with you Theresa Graner
Jack May 31, 2011 at 12:22 AM
What if they do the 4 day school week and then decide to close the schools anyway.
LB June 26, 2011 at 10:32 AM
If the district really wanted to save money they would get rid of all the elementary buildings altogether. When I went there, there in the 70's there were 2000 kids in the high school and didn't feel over crowded. They could put middle and high school in same building and elementary in the middle school. However, they will have get better discipline in the school. I heard the middle school allowed very bad behavior, including fights in the halls and much bullying. Perhaps a change of Administration.
LB June 26, 2011 at 10:34 AM
There would be plenty of idle high school kids to babysit.

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