The Minnesota Department of Education has rejected Lake Superior School District's application, to go to a four-day school week this fall. The district wanted to make the switch to save money, but in a letter from Commissioner Alice Seagren, the department cited several areas of concern with the district’s application.
Seagren’s letter said some information was missing or vague. In particular the district listed an approximate percentage of savings rather than specific dollar amounts. The letter also says the district's application lacks evidence of broad community input during its development of the four day plan. The commissioner’s letter also said the district did not include documentation it held any community meetings specifically designed to address the proposal for a new schedule.
The district was told it needed to submit a “strengthened application” for review and, if approved, the four-day week could be implemented in a “future year.” Presumably that could push the district plan into the 2011-12 school year, however the door was left open for an attempt to seek state approval for implementing this fall. District Superintendent Phil Minkkinen reportedly has responded to the commissioner’s office.
The district submitted its application to the state in May, after the community voted down an operating levy. The shorter school week was estimated to save about a $250,000 annually, mostly in transportation costs. The fear was without switching to a four-day week, the district would slide into statutory operating debt. The district’s draft 2010-11 budget shows an estimated $400,000 deficit – this after cutting $1.5 million from the current budget.
According to ISD166 superintendent Beth Schwarz, the Department of Education can be fussy about the timing of schedule changes. The DOE has done this before to districts submitting schedule changes at the end of a school year, said Schwarz.
Cook County Schools ISD166 is set to vote on switching to a four-day week for the 2011-12 school year at this Wednesday’s board meeting. The ISD166 board and superintendent have held five public meetings throughout Cook County regarding the schedule shift. Schwarz added that if the board decides to go with a four-day schedule, ISD166 is giving itself a year to implement as well as answer any DOE questions.
ISD166 has already decided to hold an operating referendum this fall to increase its revenues by an average of just under $350,000 for each of the next four school years. Whether or not they decide to pursue a four-day schedule remains to be answered Wednesday night.