COLUMBIA — Beginning next fall, students in the Harrisburg school district will have three-day weekends.
The Harrisburg school board unanimously voted Monday night to reduce the district's school week from five days to four.
The new school week will run Tuesday through Friday from approximately 8:05 a.m. to 3:50 p.m., increasing the school day to nearly eight hours, up from the current 6½.
Monday was dropped from the school week because most holidays, half-days and professional development days fall on that day. Teachers will be required to have one Monday a month devoted to professional development.
Although the school week will be condensed, it will improve the time given for instruction, Superintendent Lynn Proctor said.
Reducing the school week addresses a budget shortfall. In February, Harrisburg residents were asked to approve a 30-cent tax levy increase for the school district but voted it down.
Proctor said the four-day school week is projected to save $75,000 per year, an estimate she describes as conservative. She said from 2006 to 2009 the district was spending at a deficit.
The savings will come from reductions in non-certified staff, including custodians, secretaries and bus drivers, as well as cuts in transportation, food and utility costs.
In 2009, Missouri lawmakers passed legislation allowing districts to reduce the school week. However, the law also stipulates that schools must not go below a certain number of hours of instruction.
Moreover, if academic achievement drops over two consecutive years, the district must return to a five-day school week.
Some Harrisburg residents expressed concerns with the changes.
"I'm not for it," said Troy Douglas, a farmer with three children in Harrisburg schools. "The majority of parents don't have the luxury of the added daycare expense."
David Comegys, a retired firefighter, said he's in favor of the changes but is concerned about maintaining acceptable academic achievement.
"If this doesn't work, it will be hard for the kids and teachers to go back to the old way," he said.
But a survey of parents in the school district indicated that 58 percent of the 233 surveyed supported the change. Another 25 percent were undecided, and 17 percent were opposed. The two main concerns emerging from the survey were school day length and the quality of instruction.
Harrisburg will join the Albany and Stet school districts north of Kansas City in adopting the four-day school model this fall. The Lathrop district, also north of Kansas City, implemented the model this school year.