SWEET HOME — Sweet Home school board members have not yet made a decision on whether to change the district to a four-day schedule, but three so far say they are opposed.
David VanDerlip, Kevin Burger and Billie Weber all said Monday at a work session they want the school district to find another way to both shoehorn in teacher-staff planning time and backfill an expected $1 million budget gap. The other six board members did not make public statements on their positions.
Superintendent Don Schrader, although a strong proponent of the change, said he will work with whatever the board desires, but that time for training must be found. Besides its own goals, the district is facing a number of state and federal mandates that will take time for organization, explanation and practice, he said.
At minimum, Schrader said he expects Sweet Home to save about $340,000 with a change to a four-day week. He’s already recommending that savings be combined with some reserved funds plus eliminating administrative and teaching positions and cutting from maintenance and transportation to make up the $1 million.
If the board doesn’t go with the four-day week, the $340,000 could be made up other ways, assuming bargaining groups agree, Schrader said. The possibilities: 2 percent cut to all salaries, $200,000; four furlough days, $220,000; teacher layoffs, $175,000; reduced classified hours, $92,000; and cuts to retiree insurance coverage, field trips and stipends for extracurricular activities.
The district also still will have to find time somewhere for planning and intervention to meet the mandates, Schrader said.
The majority of Sweet Home residents who have replied to online and paper questionnaires about the four-day proposal are opposed to a change, although 13 to 15 percent of them say they’re still unsure.
Of the opposed board members, Weber was particularly adamant, telling Schrader repeatedly through the meeting that she knows no one who likes the idea.
“You know there are other ways. Why are you pushing this so hard?” she said. “You’re hurting the students, as far as I’m concerned.”
“I don’t think I’m hurting the kids. I take that a little personal,” Schrader responded. “I think what we’re trying to do is manage the success of our kids.”
“No,” Weber replied. “You’re hurting kids.”
VanDerlip said he’s opposed because he doesn’t want one segment of the district — classified employees, in this case — to bear a disproportionate burden of the savings. The same is true of parents, he said: some might easily find child care for the fifth day of the week, but some might not.
Other four-day districts Sweet Home has surveyed had the same questions but are not finding them to be barriers, Schrader and the district survey team said. Full results are available on Sweet Home’s website, www.sweethome.k12.or.us.