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TWO HARBORS - It's been a tough few years for the Lake Superior School District, operating under a tight budget, laying off teachers and even having to close schools.
Now the district is taking action to determine if their new four–day school week is paying off and if they should do it again next year.
Three years ago, rising operating costs forced the Lake Superior School District to transition from a five to four day school week.
Now, to gain another three years the district must prove that one less day didn't affect students.
Like many school districts, the Lake Superior School District faces the unenviable task of balancing their budget, often working with fewer dollars every year, while still trying to offer students the same programs.
"We've been working really hard over the last couple years to look at every measure where we can make reductions, to the point where in this building we got rid of paper towels and we're just using air hand dryers because we spent $5,000 on paper towels," said Brett Archer, principal at Two Harbors High School.
The district says the school's best alternative was to switch to a four–day week.
Initially it looked as a way to simply cut costs, but it might have actually enhanced student learning.
"I know our math instructors feel that 10 more minutes in a class or whatever works out to be really beneficial because now they have more time to work with the kids as they practice the skills that they've learned that day," said Archer.
And parents seem to agree.
"I've really liked it. At first my kids were kind of reticent about it. They didn't think it was going to work out too well but now they really do like it and they seem to be adapting pretty well to it," said Diane Wells, a Two Harbors High School parent.
Terry Stroozas, another high school parent said, "I think it's gone relatively smooth. I think the kids and the teachers have adapted accordingly."
As far as savings go, the district had a yearly target of roughly $218,000.
So far, through the first two years, they weren't that far off, saving $190,000 the first year and $208,000 the second year.
The district has to file its application with the Minnesota Department of Education by mid–April.
In the meantime, they're busy gathering data and surveying the community for valuable input.