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Rural Schools Shorten School Week To Deal With Budget Cuts

School districts nationwide are reeling from state budget cuts, and rural schools, particularly in the West, are feeling the effects.

An Associated Press story explains how many rural school districts are opting for shorter school weeks as a solution.

In South Dakota, one-fourth of the state's districts have some type of abbreviated schedule, and only two other states—Colorado and Wyoming—have a larger proportion of districts doing so, according to the article. Nationally, more than 120 school districts in 20 states have four-day school weeks.

The article highlights one rural district in the farmlands of southeastern South Dakota, Irene-Wakonda School District. The district in 2007 consolidated with a neighboring district eight miles away to save money, and it more recently cut an arts teacher position and teachers' aides. Still, that hasn't been enough to compensate for the drop in state funding, a problem compounded by declining enrollment and population.

Going to a four-day week in Irene-Wakonda will save $50,000 a year, and that will be used to preserve a vocational education program. The superintendent said in the article the district will add 30 minutes to the remaining four days and shorten lunch breaks, physical education classes, and recess in elementary school. The district still will exceed the state's minimum requirement for class time.

Those who oppose schools moving to four-day weeks say students will suffer, but the article quotes a senior policy analyst with the Education Commission on the States who recently studied the issue and said no substantial research exists on the ramifications of shortening classroom time relative to student achievement.

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