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Four-day school week paying off for local districts; lawmakers want a change

NEWCASTLE, Okla. - Following a $1.3 billion budget crisis, many school districts took drastic measures to save money.

Last year, schools across the state were told their budgets would be slashed because of the shortfall. In response, several districts across Oklahoma decided to cut the school week short.

In fact, almost one fifth of our state’s school districts have gone to four-day school weeks.

Gov. Mary Fallin targeted those 97 school districts in her 'State of the State' address on Monday, saying kids need to be in school five days a week.

“We must have five-day school weeks,” said Governor Fallin.

Districts who have made the switch are taking notice, and disagree with the governor's stance.

“I’ve saved almost a teacher in diesel probably already,” said Newcastle Superintendent Tony O’Brien.

Newcastle just went to a four-day week this school year.

O’Brien says he estimated they would save one to two percent of their budget, and he says they are probably ahead of that.

He says he’s already saved money on fuel costs because they operate buses one less day a week.

He’s also saved money in substitute teacher costs because teachers don’t have to take a day off for appointments.

“If I have a doctor’s appointment, I can schedule it on a Friday. I don’t have to take it off,” said Spanish teacher, Creshia Cecil.

Cecil says academics have not suffered.

In fact, she says having students in class an extra 45 minutes is working better for the kids.

“Our instruction time is a little bit longer day wise, so we can get more accomplished,” said Cecil.

However, not everyone sees the benefit of a four-day school week.

Sen. Kyle Loveless has a bill that would require districts have school five days a week unless they can prove significant savings.

“We need to have kids in schools five days a week,” said Sen. Loveless. “It is a bad PR, a bad image problem, bad optics to the state when we have 100 school districts that have gone to four-day.”

“My school board is the guys who know what’s best for my kids, not somebody at 23rd and Lincoln,” said Superintendent O’Brien.

O’Brien says they are getting ready to present the calendar for next year to their local school board and they are recommending to stick with the four-day week.

The Noble and Little Axe superintendents both tell NewsChannel 4 that the four-day school week is working out for them as well and that they are also saving money.