Dunseith changes to a four day week

DUNSEITH Dunseith Public School District will go to a four-day week next year in hope of saving money, said Superintendent Patrick Brenden.

Brenden said school hours will be 8:05 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. for the elementary, adding an additional half hour to the school day, and school hours at the high school will be 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m., adding an additional hour to each school day. Class periods at the high school will be extended from 45 minutes to one hour. School will start on the same day and end on the same day as it did this school term, said Brenden.

Teachers will have some Fridays off and staff development days on others. Kids can receive tutoring assistance on some of those Fridays and also during the last 15 minutes of the extended class periods.

“We’re cutting the days back but we’re actually giving them more classroom minutes,” said Brenden, who said elementary school students will end up being in school for an additional five days next year even with the cutback in days.

Brenden said the school board decided on this course of action to save money and to try to avoid more staffing cuts. Dunseith, which has a lot of trust land in the school district and a large number of Native American students, relies heavily on the federal government for funding. When the federal government made cuts in the last few years, it meant heavy cuts for the Dunseith school district as well.

“Last year we had to cut four people just to balance our budget,” said Brenden.

Brenden surveyed parents and more than 90 percent of them approved the four-day week plan, he said. The district also submitted a proposal to the state Department of Public Instruction and received approval to try the schedule for one year. After the 2014-2015 school year, the district could submit another proposal to continue the schedule for another year and after that could apply to continue the schedule for five years.

The four-day week has been tried by other school districts across the country. Brenden said he and his staff researched how it works at those 120 schools across the country. The district also submitted a proposal to the state Department of Public Instruction and received approval to try the four-day week schedule for one year.

Brenden said test scores did not go up significantly at the other schools that have gone to the four-day work week, but rates of attendance by both students and faculty members did go up at those other schools. Morale was also higher at districts that had a four-day week. Brenden said some staff members have friends or family that work at schools with a four-day work week in other areas and are very enthusiastic about the schedule.

While change can be difficult, Brenden said he’s optimistic that this will be a positive change for all involved.