PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With money tight at local school districts, North Allegheny School Director Ralph Pagone has an idea — shorten the school year by a few days.
“I can tell you the last three days of the school year for my daughters they did absolutely nothing other than watch and play games, watch movies and play games,” Pagone told his colleagues on the North Allegheny School Board, as recorded by the North Allegheny Patch.
To save money to keep Peebles Elementary School open, Pagone wants to cut North Allegheny’s school days from 184 days to 180.
“That’s not quality instructional classroom time, at least for me, based on a 184 day argument. So we need to do a better job teaching the kids the days they are in school. If not, let’s save some money. That’s why I came up with that idea,” said Pagone.
“It’s not a crazy idea at all,” Allegheny Intermediate Unit and former South Fayette superintendent Dr. Linda Hippert told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.
Hippert says one challenge may be the teachers union.
“It could save money. I think one of things you have to look at is the contracts, what is in the contracts because you may have to renegotiate,” she added.
Pennsylvania law requires 180 days of instruction, but school boards are free to offer more than that if they wish.
Here’s another way to save money — 21 states have school districts with four-day school weeks. Pennsylvania will allow for that, too.
But many educators like Hippert and North Allegheny school board president Maureen Grosheider say the school year should be longer, not shorter.
“I think kids need more instructional time, not less instructional time,” Grosheider told her colleagues.
Still, some taxpayers prefer a shorter school year.
“I don’t see a problem with it at all,” one person said.
“If it’s to save money, I think it’s a good idea,” another said.
“If they’re going to save a lot of money, I ‘d say do it,” another person said.
Most school districts around the country favor 180 days of school.
Kansas requires the most with 186 days, while kids in Colorado have a required minimum of just 160 days.
The big unknown is — how much money does each day less of school save?
Nobody has a hard figure on that one.
And much will depend on whether rolling back the number of days means paying less to school teachers, administrators and staff.