Mohawk mulls bill for 4-day school week

 

Greenfield Recorder 10/09/2014, Page A01

By DIANE BRONCACCIO Recorder Staff

BUCKLAND — While any prospect of a four-day school week is still several years away, Superintendent Michael Buoniconti has asked the Mohawk Trail Regional School Committee to let state Rep. Paul Mark file special legislation that could make it possible — if the district wants to adopt a four-day school week sometime in the future.

Currently, “time on learning” state education law requires public schools to hold classes 180 days per year AND to provide a set number of academic hours spent in core academic subjects each school year. (These are 990 hours per year for grades 7 through 12, and 900 hours per year for elementary students).

If the 180-day requirement were dropped, it would be possible for grades 7 to 12 students to get the same amount of learning time in four school days, which would last about 90 minutes longer than Mohawk’s school days are now.

Buoniconti found that the fourday school week in 38 Colorado school districts had no impact on students’ educational performance, and he presented his University of Massachusetts doctoral thesis on that subject to the Mohawk School Committee on Wednesday.

In his report, Buoniconti noted that 37 Colorado public school districts moved to a four-day school week between 1980 and 2010, while another 43 school systems made this transition between 2011 and 2013. Buoniconti studied the education impact of 38 districts that were similar to Mohawk, in that they were located in a low-population rural area, and were motivated by the desire to reduce energy and operating costs.

Buoniconti compared levels of academic achievement and student growth from before and after the four-day school week transition, and found no significant difference. Because there was no finding of a negative impact, Buoniconti said he is going to ask the Mohawk School Committee to consider asking Mark to file the proposed legislation in January.

“The committee is not taking a position on this,” he stressed. “They’re simply advocating for options that could make the school district more economically viable.”

“Now that I’ve looked at the educational impact, I would like to look at the economic impact on these 38 districts,” said Buoniconti, “but I have to wait until they publish their (latest) financial information.”

In reading about other fourday- week schools, Buoniconti said the reported savings ranged from miniscule to 5 percent of the costs of running a five-day school.

“Five percent of a $20 million budget is $1 million,” he remarked. “That’s how we created budget stability (in 2009)— by shifting to GIC insurance.” Mohawk and Hawlemont were among the first school districts in the state to move health insurance coverage to the state’s Group Insurance Commission, for a million-dollar savings.

“That’s what interests the committee in pursuing this option,” he said.

On Tuesday, Buoniconti sent out an email/voicemail to the Mohawk School Community, as a “preemptive explanation for news stories that may run over the next few days, inappropriately connecting Mohawk with a four-day school week.”

“Please be assured that Mohawk is not implementing or advocating for a four-day school week,” the message continued.

In a separate interview, Buoniconti explained that, even if the school board wanted to adopt a four-day school week, such a change would take at least four to five years, because the school system has a new, five-year transportation contract for five-days-aweek school bus service.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at::dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277