HARRISBURG - The Harrisburg School District switched to a 4-day school week to save money in 2012. Five years later, the district says it and the community are seeing the differences the change has made.
“When we decided to do this, when the district was in a bit of financial trouble, and this was the way to save a little money on different things like transportation and utilities,” said Kyle Fisher, Harrisburg High School's principal.
The district transitioned into the shorter school week in an attempt to save up to $100,000. Since then, Harrisburg’s budget has stabilized and grown, and is now exceeding its’ goal.
As of July, The Harrisburg School District the increase in revenue has successfully sustained the academic rigor of the schools. Superintendent Steve Combs said.
“It wasn't as much of an increase in programs, but more of being able to maintain what we were offering the students,” he said. “We were able to enhance the programs we were already offering and not cut more programs or staff.”
The district says it was also able to hire an academic support specialist and strength training coach for the high school’s football team.
When the transition from a 5-day week was first announced, there were mixed reactions from staff, parents and students.
Harrisburg teachers Chris Ackman and Laura Dieckmann said they enjoy the 4-day week and the consistency that the change provides. With longer classes, Dieckmann said, she has more opportunities to go in depth with lessons and focus on the needs of the students.
“I feel like it helps me crystallize what’s really important in my lessons. There’s not any drag time, we start Tuesday morning at the crack of dawn and end in the afternoon on Friday and we’re very busy in between,” Dieckmann said.
One big initial concern for parents was accessibility to child care. Fisher said, because there are only two child care services in the city, the change could have been difficult for parents with younger children.
“It took about a year for the community, students and faculty to say ‘Yes, this is a pretty good process,’” Ackman said. “Obviously the Monday situation presented a problem with daycare, but parents have quickly adjusted to it and it’s gotten better each year.”