Some South Dakota Schools Cut Costs By Cutting a Day

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It’ll be a three-day weekend every weekend for many students across the Mount Rushmore state.

As schools start to return to session in South Dakota, more than one-fourth of students in the state will only be in class from Monday through Thursday.

Budget constraints have led the Irene-Wakonda school district, for one, to hack off a day from the school week. Larry Johnke, superintendant of the district in southeastern South Dakota, says the change will save his schools more than $50,000 per year. In order to make up for the missing day, the school will add 30 minutes to each of the other four days and shorten the daily lunch break.

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Johnke affirms that the district will still meet the state’s minimum for instruction time, but parents are skeptical of the change. “The kids are going to suffer,” the Irene-Wakona PTA president notes. “Of course they will. They’re missing a whole day of school.”

But other schools in the state show that kids haven’t suffered with a shortened school week. The Deuel school district in eastern S.D. switched to a four-day week four years ago, saving more than $100,000 and leading to no slump in academic achievement. In fact, Deuel’s superintendent Dean Christensen tells the Associated Press that their failure rate has declined because they’ve used the spare day for extra tutoring.

Melissa Hessman, a junior at Irene-Wakonda’s high school, says, “I think it’ll be fun for students because you’ll get an extra day to do whatever you want.” However, it remains to be seen if that day will involve any extra-curricular learning.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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