PRAIRIE CITY - Trustees for Prairie City School District No. 4 welcome patrons to a public forum 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, to discuss possibly adopting a four-day school week as part of a budget-cutting package. The school board will accept suggestions and make a decision at its 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, monthly board meeting.

The school board wants parents and staff members to help brainstorm ways to fill holes in this year's $2.6 million budget. A $699,083 drain on the district's general fund happened in two big bites - $429,839 in 2000-2001 and $269,244 in 2001-2002, according to audited figures provided by superintendent Gene Mills.

The district's general fund for 2002-2003 is $2.6 million. The most recent income projections from the state show the district down $163,672 from budget estimates.

Mills proposed saving $45,350 with salaries through shortened schedules, $85,914 in special fund savings and $7,936 in busing cuts.

Prairie City School District No. 4 may cut out a half day of instruction on Fridays in order to ease a proposed reduction in staff hours - a key component of the district's budget-cutting plan.

The reduction in staff hours would provide $45,350 in much-needed savings, said Mills.

The savings would include five fewer work days for 18 teachers, a negotiated savings of $22,260. Contrary to a first impression, shifting to a four-day week would not give teachers Fridays off. Rather, it would provide flexibility to reduce the contracted work schedule of teachers from 190 days to 185 days. Teachers would maintain the same student contact time because their reduced days would fall on Fridays, not during the week when they teach classes. Teachers would continue to work on Fridays in areas such as staff development, except, of course, on those days that their contracts were reduced for budget reasons.

The superintendent and athletic director position, held by Mills, would be paid at one-third time rather than one-half time under the proposal. Principal Kevin Purnell would be targeted for a five-day reduction in his contract. Other savings could be gleaned by reducing classified staff hours on Fridays, which would amount to four hours per week for a mix of support employees. Students would start earlier and end the day later Monday through Thursday.

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