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.