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|Committee to study four-day school week|
The Ouachita Parish School Board agreed Wednesday to form a committee to look into adopting a four-day school week.
The measure was brought before the school board at its regular meeting by board member Jerry Hicks. It passed unanimously.
"As most of the community and the school system knows we are facing tough times with the oil problem," Hicks said. "I've noticed quite a few school systems in the state have approved a four-day school week this year."
The Caldwell Parish School Board recently approved a measure to switch to a four-day school week beginning with the 2008-09 school year.
Several school systems utilizing the four-day school week approach have decided to operate school from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Hicks said.
"We're not saying that we are going to go to a four-day school week, but it is something that we need to look at and make sure we have everything in line for next year if it comes down to it," Hicks said.
Last year, the parish school system spent $529,043 from its general fund for fuel. This year, the school board has spent $709,635 thus far.
Around April of this year, as gas prices reached all-time highs, the school system began paying about $25,000 per week for fuel. Last year around this time, the school system paid a little more than $15,000 per week for fuel.
Richie Garrett, business manager for parish schools, said if gas prices continue to rise, he expects next year the amount spent on gas could surpass $800,000 for the year.
School officials have estimated that instituting a four-day school week in the fall and spring could save as much as $2,000 per day on utility costs.
"The cost of fuel, and what it costs for our bus system today is big dollars, so if you take one day out, and with the heating and cooling on your buildings, that's quite a savings," Hicks said. "We don't want to go to that unless we have to, but it's something we need to look at to see what the cost is and who it will affect and who it won't."
"We just want to look at the options," he added.
Board member A.R. "Red" Sims also said the school system might need to eliminate unnecessary school bus trips.
Hicks said if the school system decides to switch to a four-day school week, elementary students would be the ones most affected by the decision.
"You have to have something to do with elementary children, and I know elementary parents will be the ones most concerned," Hicks said.
Board member Carey Walker said some of the elementary school children who ride school buses could be arriving home from school around dark if school lets out later in the afternoon.
"You'd hate to let small children out after dark, so that's something we have to consider, too," Walker said.
Hicks suggested naming elementary school parents to the four-day week study committee to receive their input on the matter.
Hicks said the committee will have to determine what time school would begin and let out each day if the system decides to go to a four-day school week.
Hicks wants the committee to have a report prepared for the school board within two months.