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Sherri Keaton, Published July 21 2010

Pelican Rapids parents mixed on four-day school week

PELICAN RAPIDS, Minn. – Cathy Vague is your typical sports mom. And as an on-the-go mother of two, her concern for Pelican Rapids’ change to a four-day school week is one that she says may affect her children and their sports schedules.

“I just hope (the school district) make sure they go through everything so it doesn’t affect somebody down the road in negative ways as far as getting out of school for sports,” said Vague, a Pelican Rapids resident. “Because my kids are in school, I don’t know how that all is going to play out with going out of town for school (events).”

On Monday, Pelican Rapids School Board members approved the shorter school week that will begin in the fall. The change includes the elementary school and high school.

Nine other Minnesota schools currently have four-day school weeks.

Final approval of the change in Pelican Rapids will be made by the Minnesota Department of Education before the semester begins.

Meanwhile, the school is moving forward with the plan.

Vague said because her older children don’t need day care and she and her husband have alternating work schedules, the four-day week won’t pose a problem.

“As far as my family goes, (the shorter week) won’t affect us in a negative way,” she said.

Superintendent Deborah Wanek said a lot of public input was considered before the decision was made.

Some of the concerns, such as longer school days, won’t a big problem, she said.

“What we’ve found is that research shows it is academically neutral. In some cases, they’ve seen improvement academically,” Wanek said of the longer days.

One of the biggest concerns parents have expressed is how the younger students would handle the longer days, she said. She also noted day care issues and homework for students that are involved in activities.

It will also be different for teachers, who will have to compress the work they give their students.

“Teachers have an amount of curriculum to get through and … they still have to get through their curriculum, so they’re going to have to work around that,” Wanek said.

High school days will begin at 7:55 a.m. and end at 3:55 p.m. The change will add 65 minutes to each day. Elementary classes will start at 8 a.m. and go until 3:45 p.m.

Pelican Rapids resident Rita Cowie said as the mother of a sixth-grader, her biggest questions are whether the longer days will cause more fatigue for her child and if her child will have enough time for homework.

“How will it be getting them to catch up on homework?” Cowie asked. “We’ll see how it goes, but I’m afraid we’ll have more issues.”

Jamie Funk, a day care provider in Pelican Rapids, said she has talked to a few parents about the situation, and many are worried about the longer days, she said.

“But there hasn’t really been any negative feedback,” Funk said. “But they would have to be here earlier than they normally would.”

Even though there are some hesitations, Funk said this new change is good.

Wanek said they are attempting to make use of every opportunity they can in saving money.

“We are trying to offer opportunities,” she said. “At the same time, we know we are not going to meet everyone’s needs.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Keaton at (701) 235-7311