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Newcastle schools moving to four-day weeks

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NEWCASTLE, Okla. -- In a cost-cutting move, the Newcastle School District will move to four-day school weeks beginning in the fall.

The school board approved the schedule change at a meeting Wednesday.

"Right now in the climate we're in, financially all kinds of things, it as just a good move for Newcastle," said Superintendent Tony O'Brien. "We are conservatively saying we`re going to save at least $100,000-150,000, that will be in utilities, transportation, another big cost is in substitute teachers we won`t have to hire."

The district plans to keep kids in school for an extra 45 minutes on the days they are in the classroom, to keep instructional hours above the minimum required by law.

As far as athletics go, the superintendent said games won't be affected and practice times will remain the same. O'Brien said students have supported the shorter week, with some saying the longer weekend will give them more time to work a job or perform community service.

"There's going to be some bumps in the road, we know that," said O'Brien, "but nothing that's insurmountable we think."

But parents tell NewsChannel 4 they have concerns about the scheduling change.

John Cerny, a father of five kids in the district, said it's the parents of younger children who will suffer the most.

"The high school parents it doesn't effect that much, but if you have a five-year-old or a six-year-old, and they're your oldest child you have to figure out what to do with them," he said. "I don't think [the district] really thought this all the way through."

Daycare can be expensive and difficult to find, Cerny said.

His suggestion: consolidate superintendents who he says make six-figure salaries.

The school district has said it is working with contractors to help parents with their daycare needs.

Other parents are taking their frustration out on state lawmakers, blaming them for deepening budget problems.

"It makes me very angry because I believe our legislators have absolutely failed our kids," said Kathy Knowles, the parent of a high school student. "It's a state problem, but it's been a problem for years and years and years and it hasn't been corrected. So here we are in the middle of a revenue failure and our kids are paying the price. Whether it's a four-day week or cutting staff."

Knowles will encourage her son to get college credit on the Fridays he'll have off.

"Otherwise, he would just be playing video games and that's not okay with me," she said. "I believe with all of the requirements they need in high school anyway to get prepared for college, losing a day of instruction I don't think is beneficial to kids."