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School board talks 4-day week

Would come with longer school year

Staff writer

Teachers and administration are urging Peabody-Burns Board of Education to adopt a longer school year with only four days of classes each week, but school board members aren’t yet convinced.

“We’re already half way there,” Superintendent Ron Traxson said at Monday’s board meeting. “We already go an extended day because we go until 3:30 p.m.”

The plan, which Traxson thinks would save 1 to 2 percent of the districts operating budget, stems from teachers’ concerns.

“Teachers don’t feel like they have enough time to prepare for classes,” Traxson said. “If we structure this properly we could give them the time they need to interact with other teachers and build stronger lessons plans to be more prepared, and that would translate into better learning opportunities for the students.”

Board member Anthony Zappone said he had a hard time believing the shortened week, with two more weeks of classes, would translate into better learning.

“How can seeing the students less help them learn more,” he said.

But he said he was open to doing more research on the four-day proposal.

“More teachers are on board with this than I thought possible,” athletic director Ray Savage said.

Changing to a four-day week would not completely offset the nearly $146,000 in state funding the school is down this year. Traxson expects that shortfall to grow to around $200,000 annually over the next two years.

“We have to get this corrected between this year and next,” he said. “As we stand we have money to carry over from the end of the year, but it won’t be much.”

The board went into closed session for 26 minutes to discuss matters of personnel and potential solutions to the shortfall. Upon returning to open session, no action was taken.

Another topic Monday was how the district could afford long-term repairs.

Because a bond used to construct the high school will be paid off in 2015, Traxson sought approval to investigate a new, smaller bond to raise $750,000 for capital improvement.

The district pays about $300,000 annually for the high school bond. The smaller new bond might cost only $150,000 annually, he said. Tax rates could be allowed to decrease slowly, providing a budgetary cushion, he said.

“It would take the uncertainty of our budget out of the equation and allow us to do some improvements throughout the district,” he said.

Projects discussed include redoing the track, resurfacing parking lots, purchasing a couple of new buses, repairs to the heating and air conditioning system as well as phone and security systems, roof repairs, and playground equipment.

“The bond would be strictly for long term 20-to-25 year projects,” he said. “We want people to know that it’s not frivolous things we are addressing. We need to extend the life of what we have and to reinvest in what we’ve been investing for.”

Without a new bond issue, he said, it would be hard for the schools to pay for these projects.

“Before we consider any of this we need to sharpen our pencils and figure out what it will cost now and further down the road,” board member Bruce Burke said.

He said he didn’t want residents to pay 20 years for projects that might not last 20 years.

“If doing these projects now would save us money later, then I’m all for it,” he said.

A new bond issue would have to be approved at a district election.

The board also approved a bid for a 10-passenger Ford E-350 van from Shawnee Mission Ford for $30,512. The van will replace a Chevrolet Suburban and be used to transport small teams and groups.

Local dealerships did not have access to a van that was already converted to handle nine passengers.

In other news

  • The board approved a May 20 to 22 trip by 35 band members, an administrator, several sponsors, and music teacher Steven Wilson to Branson, Mo., where the band will perform and see shows. Cost to each student will be $400.
  • Members Julia Ensminger, Anthony Zappone, and Bruce Burke were appointed to negotiate employment contracts.

Last modified Jan. 16, 2014

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