By MATT FURST
Capital News Service
LANSING — Some students in the Upper Peninsula may not have to face Monday mornings ever again.
School operational costs could be cut by 20 percent if one day were cut out of the school week, said Paul Price, superintendent of Republic-Michigamme schools.
“Taking out a day would reduce costs for heating, buses, janitors and everything else that falls under operational costs,” Price said. Some U.P. schools have been closed because of decreased enrollment. A four-day school week would be an efficient way to combat the problem, Price said.
The kids wouldn’t, however, have fewer hours per class week.
“The students are required to be in school 1,098 hours a year, so the normal school day would need to be longer,” Price said.
School is now in session from 8:20 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., but if a day’s worth of class were cut, school would start at 8 a.m. and end at 4:10p.m.
Republic-Michigamme schools would have instituted the four-day school week for this fall, but because of complications with teachers’ retirement plans, it will have to wait, Price said.
Teachers need to work 170 days to be eligible for retirement, but with the four-day weeks, they would work only 155.
Republic-Michigamme schools would be the only school in the state to have a four-day week, Price said.
Before the school can cut a day out, it needs help from the Legislature, Price said.
Rep. Steve Adamini, D-Neguanee, said he introduced a bill in April that would allow teachers to work fewer days, but still be eligible for retirement. He said the bill came out of committee with unanimous support in May, but is still waiting in the House for second reading.
“The Republicans are holding the bill hostage because I wouldn’t vote to raise cigarette taxes or to lift caps on charter schools,” Adamini said.
Kendall Wingrove, House Republican communications director, said the Republicans favor the bill.
“We think it’s good legislation and hope to pass it through during this lame-duck session,” Wingrove said.
Adamini said he is confident that when the composition of the House changes after the Nov. 5 election, the bill will become a law.
Regardless of the bill, something needs to be done about decreased enrollment, officials say.
“Last year we graduated 20 students, but this year we only have eight students enrolled in kindergarten,” Price said.
A shortened school week isn’t the answer for every school system, said Tom Smith, superintendent of Escanaba schools.
Smith has also faced problems due to declining enrollment in his school system. He said his answer has been to consolidate schools.
“Unlike other districts in the U.P. we have more than one elementary school, so we are able to combine classes without overcrowding,” Smith said. “This is a difficult problem and everyone is going to deal with it differently.”
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By MATT FURST