PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – The Pasco County School Board has been researching the positive and negative aspects of having four-day school weeks instead of the traditional five-day week.
Pasco County School Board member Steve Luikarts told CBS Tampa that the research effort is merely an exercise in gathering information.
“We’re not pushing for or against this – it’s just a possible option,” he said.
Members of the community are less than thrilled with the prospect alone, however.
“This is not good for the kids. I understand you have financial problems,” parent Keith Poot said during a recent board meeting held on the matter. “You really caught my attention when you said you have two concerns: school projects and athletics and all that kind of stuff and employees. You completely left the kids out.”
“I am basically opposed to a four-day week because I feel like children need to be in school five days a week and they need to be in longer than the five-to-six hours they’re in now,” another parent, Natalie Brock, said.
The research initiative, split into six teams of almost 40 people looking into the potential effects on areas such as transportation and energy, will culminate on March 20, when findings are presented formally to the board.
Luikarts added that the financial issues of the district reached a critical point when required to hire almost 130 additional teachers, as they did not meet a class size amendment for the 65,000-student district, and were residually fined $4 million.
“We’re not some small county in Suburbia, North Dakota, somewhere with only 1,500 students in the whole district,” Luikarts noted. ”We have different needs … that have to be evaluated to do the best we can for our kids.”
But with a staggering $122 million made in budget cuts over the past four years, the need to cut corners elsewhere becomes a top priority for the large district.
Luikarts argues that governmental policies regarding education have created the need to seek alternative solutions to fiscal issues.
“It’s a very frustrating stage in education. Legislators, senators, Congress, House [members] and all that want us to provide a high quality education,” he said. “But $122 million in cuts over four years … that’s a nice chunk of change.”
One group that could be hypothetically placed on the financial whittling block are non-teaching personnel, who when added with teaching staff reportedly account for 87 percent of the district’s annual budget.