North Branch Schools End Year with Shift Back to 5-Day Week

Updated: 06/11/2014 6:05 AM By: Naomi Pescovitz

As kids across the state finish up the school year, some students are preparing for a major change. Many districts that had been on a four-day school week to save money are going back to a five-day schedule.

North Branch Schools have been on a four-day week for the past four years. The end of this school year also brings the end of the four-day schedule.

"Not really happy about it," said North Branch High School student Isabelle Grossinger.

North Branch students had longer school days to make up for the day off. Superintendent Deb Henton says the district was able to cut back on energy bills and diesel fuel for buses. They saved about $250,000 a year.

"This past year, we were able to post 20 positions, 13 of which were teaching positions. We're able to add back sports and activities at both the middle school and the high school. And so its really been a pleasure this year," Henton said.

A change at the State Legislature now allows schools to levy more funding without voter approval. In North Branch, the district was able to bring in more than 500 dollars extra per student.

"The world runs on a five day week and so our kids will have the same opportunity as others," Henton said.

The district performed both an online and phone survey to gauge community opinions. While the email survey favored four day weeks, the phone survey favored a five day schedule.

"I like the four day week, it allowed us to have time to do something fun in the weekend," said North Branch parent Kori Schmidt.

Other parents say the days were long and difficult, especially for younger students.

"Trying to get in all the activities that you want to get in, family time, that kind of stuff, was really a challenge," said North Branch parent Stacy Johnson.

In all, the district saved more than a million dollars on a four-day schedule. Henton says student achievement dipped in some areas but improved in others. Most stayed consistent.

"We fulfilled our promise and went back to the 5 day week for next year," Henton said.

North Branch is just one of a growing list of Minnesota districts moving back to five-day school weeks. Clearbrook-Gonvick Public Schools and Onamia Public Schools tried to renew their four-day schedules, but were denied by the Department of Education. They will revert to the five-day schedule this fall.

Five districts will return to five-day weeks during the 2015-2016 school year. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Public Schools, Lake Superior Public Schools, Ogilvie Public Schools, Maynard-Clara City-Raymond Public Schools and Pelican Rapids Public Schools were granted one-year transition periods.

For now, only Blackduck Public Schools, Warroad Public Schools and Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Public Schools are maintaining the four-day schedule.