The Caney Valley school district in southeast Kansas will implement a four-day week for the remainder of the year in an effort to cut costs.
Blake Vargas, superintendent of the district, posted a statement on Twitter recently alerting families and the community to the schedule change.
Caney Valley school board members voted to add 10 minutes to the end of each school day and cancel school for the next five Fridays, Vargas said.
The district of about 800 students faced a $70,000 budget gap because of adjusted enrollment, bus maintenance and replacement costs and other factors, he said.
“A variety of unfortunate circumstances led to the current situation, but make no mistake, years of educational cuts have left us hanging on by a thread to make ends meet,” Vargas said in the written statement.
“We are one of several districts who have had to make decisions to end school early and modify the school day due to financial reasons, and we will not be the last to do so,” he said.
“We can only hope that we receive better news in the future regarding the state of school funding in Kansas.”
As the end of the school year approaches, districts across the state are considering schedule changes and other measures to cut costs.
Jim Freeman, chief financial officer for Wichita schools, said his staff may propose a plan to lengthen the school day but shorten the year for the 2016-17 school year.
Freeman said Wichita also could end this school year earlier than scheduled, a move that could save the state’s largest district at least $250,000 a day in transportation, utilities and other expenses.
“We are looking at those (instructional) minutes and hours now, analyzing to see if we actually have some extra days,” Freeman said.
“That is being discussed: Could we let school out a day or so early? That’s part of the analysis, but we’re not there yet.”
Wichita, which serves more than 51,000 students, is facing cost increases of about $23 million next year with no increase in state funding.
District leaders tentatively approved several Phase 1 budget cuts last week. Freeman said he will present Phase 2 recommendations – which could include staff reductions or program cuts – Monday.
Vargas, the Caney Valley superintendent, said each school day dropped from this year’s calendar would save that district at least $7,500 – and possibly more.
The Caney Valley board also voted to eliminate a high school counselor and not replace a retiring Title 1 teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Caney.
“We wanted to keep classroom teachers in the classroom and … minimize the impact on kids,” Vargas said Tuesday. “We made a decision at the local level that was best for kids and that’s going to ensure that we’re OK for next year.”
Vargas said he envisions Caney’s four-day school week as a short-term solution, allowing the district to finish this budget year without having to draw from its dwindling reserves.
The move will require adjustments for many families, he said, particularly those with younger children who will have to miss work or arrange child care for those students for the next several Fridays.
“Our local community has had a couple things to say: 1) ‘We understand where you’re at,’ and 2) ‘It’s tough, but we’re going to get through this,’ ” Vargas said.
“They’ve been brought along on this journey, and they kind of understand the shape that we’re in.”