This fall, one-fourth of students from South Dakota will be attending classes from Monday through Thursday. It's a three-day weekend for these school goers and Friday classes may soon be a thing of the past.
Amid a faltering economy struggling to cope with rising debt, states are implementing a number of budget cuts. These include cuts to education. The impacts of these budget cuts are evident, as some schools move to a four-day week to reduce costs.
The latest in this is the Irene-Wakonda School District. Nearly 300 students from this district in southeastern South Dakota will no longer have Friday classes, as the schools here have adopted a four-day school week for reducing costs and dealing with state budget cuts to education.
The change will save the schools from this district more than $50,000 per year, according to Larry Johnke, superintendent of the district in southeastern South Dakota. Schools will compensate for the missing day by adding 30 minutes each to the other four days and shortening the lunch break.
Johnke insists that the move will not have a detrimental effect on the student's academic performance as the schools will meet the state's minimum of instruction time. However parents are not quite convinced.
The kids are going to suffer, said Melissa Oien, who has four children and is the vice president of Irene-Wakonda parent-teacher organization. Of course they will. They're missing a whole day of school.
While school officials in larger cities, like Chicago, hope to increase school days to enhance students learning and employment opportunities, many rural districts in the Great Plains, like Irene-Wakonda, are afflicted with declines in population and enrollment, reports the Associated Press. The two towns, which are eight miles apart, combined their school districts in 2007 to save money. Their economy is largely dependent on farming.
South Dakota's Republican-controlled Legislature cut aid to schools in spring by 6.6 percent to help close a $127 million budget gap. Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard said state revenue has not grown in three years while costs have risen for medical services for the poor, added the report.
I believe in shared sacrifice, Daugaard said earlier this year.
Despite parents' concern, there are other schools in the state that show that kids haven't suffered with a shortened school week. The 500-student district of Duel switched to a four-day school week four years ago, saving more than $100,000 with no decline in academic achievement. Superintendent Dean Christensen told the Associated Press that the failure rate has declined, which he attributed to more tutoring and teacher training.
This downsizing comes as many other state legislatures also cut public education spending this year.
Schools have eliminated programs and reduced their staff to slash costs. The number of districts going to four-day weeks has nearly doubled in just two years.
However James Hansen, former head of the state Education Department, feels that students nowadays require more schooling to face the competition of the world.
Melissa Hessman, a 16-year-old junior, said that a longer weekend will be fun as students will get an extra day to do whatever they want. But she added, The longer the weekend, the more the brain's going to slow down, I think.