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Warroad school to go to four-day week

WARROAD - The public school board in Warroad voted this week to go to a four-day school week starting next fall as part of a cost-cutting effort.

Phil Heppner, chairman of the school board, said the vote was 4-2 Monday night for the change.

Faced with red ink in the coming year, the board set a goal of cutting $900,000 from the budget, Heppner said. Going to a four-day week will save about $140,000 in busing expenses and some utility costs, the board figures.

About 15 employee positions have been cut, too, including a handful of teaching positions.

High School Principal Bill Kirkeby said he had the least seniority among the district's administrators, so he's returning to being band director, a teaching slot he held for 20 years.

Student numbers, which have dropped for several years so class sizes range from about 100 to the low 70s, appear to have begun to stabilize, Kirkeby said. This year, about 95 will graduate; next fall, about 70-75 will begin kindergarten, but the lower grades have seen numbers creep back up near the 80-student range, Kirkeby said.

The district used the MACCRAY school district of Maynard, Clara City and Raymond in central Minnesota as a mode for how a four-day week would go, Heppner said.

The public school in Blackduck, Minn., also has decided to go to a four-day week next fall, Heppner said.

Warroad's school day, Monday-Thursday, will run from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., about an hour longer than the current schedule of five days each running 8:19 a.m. to 3 p.m. Each school period would be lengthened from about 50 minutes to 60 minutes.

Students would be in school 144 of the longer days instead of 170 of the shorter days. Teachers would be expected to do about 11 more days of staff development and other conference work.

The four-day plan was the final cog in the cost-cutting that will put the district in a position next year to grow its cash reserves, Heppner said.

Some parents have voiced concern about what their children will do Fridays, especially if both parents work during the day, Heppner said.

One option being discussed is running a kind of day care at the school Fridays, he said.

"A lot of details aren't worked out yet," Heppner said. "We have had fairly positive feedback from the community and from the staff," he said.