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School Committee Approves Study For 4 Day Weeks In Mohawk

Mohawk 4 DaySHELBURNE, Mass (WGGB) — Four day school weeks: it’s an idea that many students dream of, but it could become reality for some local students. The Mohawk Regional School Committee voted Wednesday night to approve researching pros and cons with the idea for their students. It would be a historic move, as no other school district in the state operates on a four day per week system. Nationwide, 300 communities in mostly rural and mid-western communities structure their school calendars the same way.

At 250 square miles, the Mohawk Regional School District is geographically larger than Boston, Worcester and Springfield school districts combined. Superintendent Michael Buoniconti says four day school weeks can save big time money on busing, heating, food costs.

“So we’re very unique in terms of geographic structure and location,” Buoniconti said.

More importantly, he notes, some school districts already doing four days per week have seen improved classroom performance from students and teachers.

“Higher staff morale, better attendance, and better focus on instruction and learning,” Buoniconti cited from his initial research on other school districts. “So with all that said, that effects the quality of education inside the classroom so I think that it’s interesting enough for us to take a look at.”

Wednesday, school committee members did issue some concerns about making the process transparent, as well as potential day-to-day ill effects.

“I’d like us to be sure to take into account that some families really rely on the school breakfasts and lunch programs,”one committee member said.

Still, the committee unanimously gave Buoniconti permission to further research the idea.

“I think going through the process of investigating you are learning things as you go, no matter what the end result is,” another committee member said.

With one less day in school, students would likely have to spend 90 minutes longer the other four days they are in the classroom. Students ABC40 spoke to had mixed thoughts on the idea.

“I don’t really see that being much of a problem,” junior student Nick Brown said. “That would be each class being, what about 20 minutes longer or so. I think the kids can handle those 20 minutes and be productive with the time.”

“If you don’t want to be in school, you want the extra day off it doesn’t make any sense because you’re just going to be here longer,” senior student Josh Rode said. “It’s going to screw up the sports schedules.”

Buoniconti says that is yet another issue to look at. Others include whether or not young students can handle longer school days. He also said that he knows the change could put a strain on families when it comes to child care.

“We might put together enrichment programs on the 5th day where the parents could drop their kids off at Mohawk,” Buoniconti said. “We would keep an eye on their kids and parents pick them up at Mohawk on the way home.”

Teachers, at least initially, would rotate four and five-day weeks so they can keep up with professional development.

Students would still go to school the same number of hours required by law, but the number of actual days in school would be less than 180. Therefore, the state would actually have to sign off the change.

If approved by the school committee, the earliest this change would kick off is September 2015.

Buoniconti and others, though, stressed that no decisions have been made and before any do get decided, a public hearing will be had so plenty of time and space is made for public comments.

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