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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Area schools look to save thousands with shorter year

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Faced with decreased funding by the state over the past few years, area school districts are making budget cuts of their own -- many by shortening their calendars.

In April, the Couch and Alton school districts joined a majority of others in southern Missouri that opted to shave days from the 2011-12 school year to save money.

Last year, the state changed its requirement for the number of days students must be in school, allowing districts to instead meet a certain amount of hours. Only a few districts across the state last year opted to shorten their calendars and add minutes to their days.

This spring, however, many districts adjusted their calendars for next year. In March, the Oregon Howell School District in Koshkonong approved a 166-day calendar to closely match the 2011-12 year West Plains set, as the districts share busing.

Many local districts, including Alton, Thayer and Koshkonong, also send students to West Plains for vo-tech classes. Without matching calendars, students will be left without transportation and vo-tech classes on days West Plains is off.

Oregon Howell School District Superintendent Robert Casteel said Koshkonong also risks losing students to West Plains if it did not mirror the shorter calendar.

The only school district in Oregon County to stay with the traditional 174-day calendar is Thayer, citing concerns about students losing knowledge over a too-long summer, especially at the elementary level.

Thayer's calendar, unanimously approved by the board in March, calls for 171 full days and three half days, with school starting Aug. 14 and ending on May 16, 2012.

Alton Superintendent Sheila Wheeler said Alton will save about $1,250 daily for the eight days it cut from the 2011-12 calendar. School will run from Aug. 17 to May 11 next year, with 10 snow days built into the calendar.

Couch Superintendent Tom Bull predicts saving even more, about $2,500 daily, for a total of $30,000. The Couch School Board approved a 162-day calendar, running from Aug. 17-May 14, with 10 snow days built in. Any unused snow days will be deducted from the projected May 2012 calendar, for May 1 being a possible last day.

Couch Principal Russell Deckard said he has not received much feedback from district patrons about the shorter calendar. All that he has heard, however, has been positive, he said.

This year, school districts were challenged by another weather factor -- too much rain.

Alton schools were not in session Monday and Tuesday, April 25-26, because of flooding, extending the year by one day.

Alton also dismissed classes at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, May 2, because more rain was in the forecast, after about six inches had fallen over the weekend. Many low-water crossings remained impassable.

Wheeler said the weather has affected attendance, which dropped to 92 percent at the elementary on Monday.

"It's not as good as we'd like," Wheeler said, of attendance during the excessively wet weather.

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