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Friday, Nov 17, 2017
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Pasco task force to ponder four-day school week

LAND O' LAKES - The Pasco County School Board will launch a task force to explore the possibility of switching to a four-day school week, something board member Steve Luikart has been pushing for since March. The board agreed Tuesday to start putting together the task force, which would include parents, principals and school district staff members. Vice Chairman Allen Altman, concerned that all parts of the county be represented, suggested that each board member appoint a parent. The county is divided into five geographic districts, with each board member representing a district. Luikart called for creating a committee, but board member Cynthia Armstrong suggested calling the group a task force. She said that would be better since the group is being established for a limited time, unlike committees that are ongoing.
"I think that might better illustrate what we are trying to accomplish," she said. Luikart first raised the idea of a four-day week when board members were discussing ways to cut spending to deal with a budget shortfall. Bus drivers and cafeteria workers would be among the employees most affected by such a change because they would be paid for one less day. At least in terms of pay, the effect would be less for teachers and most other school workers. State law sets how much time children must be in school; the hours of instruction lost from the dropped day would have to be added to the four remaining days. District officials previously estimated the savings would be $3.2 million annually, with the pay cut for bus drivers accounting for $2.4 million. The district also estimated it would save $508,000 in fuel and $315,000 in utilities. Any reduction in pay for cafeteria workers would not bring savings for the district's operating budget because the food and nutritional services department is self-supporting. Luikart has said he believes the savings would exceed the district estimates. In previous discussions about a four-day week, board members have raised a few concerns, such as the effect on student achievement and child-care arrangements for working parents. "There are lots of complicated issues in this topic," Chairwoman Joanne Hurley said Tuesday. Robert Marsh, a Land O' Lakes High teacher, told the board a four-day week would be good for him but has downsides that make it problematic. Marsh said he lived in a school district near Seattle where schools were closed Tuesday afternoons. "It was very disconcerting as a parent to have lots of teenagers in your home on Tuesday afternoon and you aren't home because you have to work," he said. A four-day week also could send parents scurrying to charter or private schools that will advertise they keep the children five days a week, Marsh said. He said that could mean the school district will lose some of its state funding, which is based on a per-student formula.

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