May 07, 2003 11:00 pm

Declining revenue is forcing a lot of changes in our schools. Staff cuts, program reductions or elimination and shortened school years are all part of the mix school districts are considering to reduce budgets to match anticipated revenue for the 2003-04 school year. Even changing the standard school week from five to four days, as many smaller districts have done, is being put on the table by larger districts such as La Grande and Baker.

The La Grande district has a subcommittee looking at what impact a four-day week would have on the budget, on students and on families. Investigating the pros and cons of going to a four-day week makes sense. The subcommittee will report to the budget committee later this month.

The concept has some trade-offs, including some positives. Eliminating one school day a week will reduce transportation and utility costs. It also could increase students' class time because athletic events and activities would have to be scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays, rather than throughout the week. On the down side, the four-day week would mean longer days for students and teachers. The subcommittee will need to look at the impact the move might have on student academic performance.

Moving all events to Friday and Saturday could prove challenging unless other schools in the Greater Oregon League adopt the same schedule. Considering the state of school funding in Oregon, it's possible other 3A schools are considering some of the same things La Grande and Baker are looking at. Class 2A and 1A schools have successfully made the jump to four- or four-and-a-half-day weeks, and the majority of schools seem to be on the same schedule nowadays. The shortened school week seems to have worked well for those schools.

Perhaps the most significant impact of a four-day week would be on families. Parents with younger children would be forced to add a day of child care a week — a prospect that would be far more expensive than what Measure 28 would have amounted to in added income tax had the measure passed.

Still, the school district has an obligation to find ways to save money while keeping in mind that providing a solid and well-rounded education must remain the top priority. If the district's investigation reveals that a four-day week can achieve a cost savings and not impact students' education, the school board needs to give the schedule change serious consideration.

What are your thoughts?

Parents, district staff and students are encouraged to write down their thoughts on the four-day school week and send in a letter to the editor. Responses should be 300 words or less. Letters can be e-mailed to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , dropped off at The Observer or mailed to 1406 Fifth St., La Grande 97850.