4-day school changes swirlingAside from a day off from classes, the Lake Superior School District’s recently approved four-day week might have more students saying “Thank God It’s Friday.”
Aside from a day off from classes, the Lake Superior School District’s recently approved four-day week might have more students saying “Thank God It’s Friday.”
Chris Olafson-Langenbrunner, the district’s community education director, said there are plans to have events throughout the year during what has been dubbed “Fabulous Fridays.” The department is planning four days of skiing and eight days at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. On Tuesday, leaders of other organizations will meet to discuss what else students can do on Fridays.
Langenbrunner said there won’t be options every Friday and many of the ideas involve activities for teens and pre-teens. “It’s really hard to get the teenage population” engaged, she said, and they will be the focus.
Community Ed did not apply for a $25,000 grant from the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation to help with activity costs because the four-day week possibility remained in limbo most of the summer. Prices for activities will fluctuate.
Students will be in school some Fridays during the year, including the first week of school because of the Monday Labor Day holiday. The day would also be open for any closures earlier in the week due to weather.
Ward Kaiser, head coach for the football team in Silver Bay, said there is another benefit to Fridays off: rest for his players before game nights and no missed classes for longer road trips.
Kaiser, who teaches history and other subjects at the high school, called the four-day week schedule “business as usual.”
Rick Frericks, who teaches sixth-grade in Silver Bay, said it’s a change but not an insurmountable one. “Being a teacher means you adapt to things,” he said. “I’m going to be making certain adjustments.”
Frericks coaches boys basketball and track and wondered only about the temperature at the gymnasium on Fridays as the school turns down the thermostat to save on energy costs. It’ll likely be similar to what teams experience during holiday breaks, he said.
Coaches, likely to the chagrin of athletes, say if nothing else they will be afforded more practice time. Students will be able to practice on Fridays if they don’t have games.
“Personally, I’m trying to stay positive about it, but I think there are a lot of negative things about it,” said Kiersten Haaversen, an incoming sophomore at Two Harbors High School. The late notice made things “kind of confusing,” she said. “It’s kind of nice to know what to expect.”
“I have kind of mixed feelings about it,” said Nina Bukowski, a Two Harbors senior. “I guess Fridays I can work now, but I don’t know how it’s going to affect sports.”
Students would be able to play in Friday games despite the rule for a day of classes before games. Four-day schools are exempt. Games will go on as scheduled Fridays but expect fewer lights on and the dip in the temperature.
Many think students will get used to the change quickly.
“They will like it more, the day will be about an hour longer,” said Bob Doetsch, a principal in Blackduck, which went to a four-day week in 2009. “You will have good and bad said about the four-day for about sixth months,” he said. “Learn how to say ‘We are working on it’ and mean it.”
“Kids will adapt to many things … better than adults do,” Two Harbors teacher Mike Fitzpatrick said. He said this generation of students, used to family structure changes and ever-changing technology, can handle the four-day change.
The district fought hard to get the four-day week approved, appealing to the state twice after an initial rejection in June. It means some in the community who have been vocal against the plan are left with mixed feelings.
“While disappointed, I am convinced there must have been appropriate mitigating circumstances which led Commissioner [Alice] Seagren to grant the district’s request,” said Mark Broin, in a written statement. He was an early and eager opponent of the excess levy referendum offered by the district and shot down by voters. Left with a dire financial prospect, the school did as promised and applied for a four-day option.
Uwe Kausch, who has kids at North Shore Community and Two Harbors High School, referred to a four-day week as “regressive thinking,” but didn’t blame the school district for trying to save money. He said older kids need to find a meaningful activity on the fifth day. He still thinks it’s a bad idea for younger students.
The district hopes to save nearly $250,000 a year with the four-day week, much of it in fewer miles for buses and less energy used at buildings. After adding a few days to its schedule for this school year so it could work out an instructional time problem, the district will save about $230,000.
The district is also looking at other ways to save money such as not having custodians come in to check boilers on weekends. Instead they would have a system that would alert the district if there was a boiler problem. Employees will see changes with their hours being cut, especially in food services, housekeeping, busing, and aide work. Some custodians would work Fridays to fix things without students in the classroom.
Connie Prince, who has students in elementary, middle school and high school in Two Harbors, said her kids were worried about getting to class on time with passing time originally going from four minutes to three. After district officials met with the Minnesota Department of Education, they were told passing time was included in instructional minutes. The district then decided to go back to four-minute passing times.
“I guess they would be more wiped out,” Prince said. She said she hasn’t run in to any problems taking care of her kids on the day off.
Brad Jones, who has two elementary-aged kids in Two Harbors, is wary. “I think they are going to struggle,” he said. Jones said he’s pretty focused on his children and will do whatever it takes for them to succeed during the four-day week.
He wasn’t concerned about daycare, considering his mother and mother-in-law are retired.
Deb Alseth teaches fourth grade in Two Harbors and said she expects to take a few more breaks. It’s compressed class time, but still as much as they had with five days, she said.
She said teachers will play it by ear during the year to see what does and doesn’t work. Alseth said last spring teachers came together to discuss lesson plans for the four-day week just in case it actually happened. “I will do whatever has to be done,” she said. “I’m not looking at it as … a three-day weekend.”
She said she brings quite a bit of work home on the weekends and expected students having to take more work home as well.
Karen Johnson, who teaches kindergarten in Two Harbors, will try to build in more free time, snacks, and recess to keep students alert. She said Minnehaha will add more activities during the day to keep kids attentive.
Frericks, who teaches sixth grade in Silver Bay, said he wasn’t nervous at all about switching to the four-day week.
“I’m going to make certain adjustments [and] make sure it all fits,” he said. He said he might teach math twice a day to the same group of students, as he did last year.
If you go
- There will be a meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Community Room at Two Harbors High School about fifth-day options and organizations that want to partner on “Fabulous Fridays.”
- Community Education will offer child care clinics for boys and girls entering fifth- and sixth-grade from 10-11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday in Two Harbors and from 9-10:30 a.m. Aug. 24-26 in Silver Bay.
For more, visit www.isd381. k12.mn.us/CommunityEd/html/index.html or call 834-8201 in Two Harbors and 226-4437 in Silver Bay.
News-Chronicle reporter Sonja Peterson contributed to this report.