Peoria School District Not Likely To Move To Four-Day Week

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Thursday, April 9, 2015 - 8:40am
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2015 - 8:42am
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(Photo by Alexandra Olgin - KJZZ)
Skyview Elementary School teacher Barbara Bush Barcus is concerned how cuts will affect her classroom.

Because of more than $100 million in budget cuts to K-12 public schools across Arizona, many districts are facing tough decisions and the Peoria Unified School District is one of them. The district was considering going to a four-day school week, but may be looking at other options.

The Peoria Unified School District has to cut $1.7 million dollars for next school years budget. It’s planning to do so by cutting administrative and IT jobs, increasing health insurance costs, outsourcing custodial services, finding ways to save money on electricity and charging rent for using vacant district buildings.

Seventh-grade math and science teacher Barbara Bush Barcus said the cuts started in 2008. “We have cut librarians, [some] nurses, we have increased fees for sports, for band, for other types of activities, our class sizes have continued to go up,” Barcus said.

For the past six years, she has been teaching at Skyview Elementary School.

She said the teachers have felt the reductions the most. “The teachers kids are on free and reduced lunch, the teacher’s kids are AHCCCS and government healthcare because they can’t afford the district health insurance,” Barcus said.

Teachers haven’t received much of a pay raise since the salary freeze started in 2006.  Barcus, like many other teachers, works two other jobs to make enough money for her family. She is the president of the Peoria Education Association and has heard most teachers would prefer the four-day week instead of other cuts.   

“The sad thing I have been hearing form teachers about it, is yes, they are all for it, we can get a little bit of a salary increase. But great, that gives me another day to work my other job," she said. "We have teachers that do everything from drive for Uber to manage a movie theater.”

The problem with the four-day week lies in the public response. A survey found nearly 40 percent of parents said they would consider taking their kids out of the district if the board moves forward with the four-day week and that concerns Matthew Bullock, president of the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board.

“Every child in PUSD is worth X amount of dollars when it comes to financial we get from every student," Bullock said. "If 1percent leaves, that is $2.1 million.”

A few hours north of Peoria, the Chino Valley School District has been operating on a four-day week for several years.

“There was lots of talk about all these horrid things that were going to happen an  in the end I believe everybody is happy," said Chino Valley High School science teacher Trish Smith.

She said she loves having longer class periods for science labs and doesn’t believe the quality of education has suffered. Chino Valley and most of the more than 40 school districts that have moved to the four-day week are rural.

Smith said many students work the fifth day.

“Some people have farms, some people have other business landscaping and that sort of stuff, so they are helping, they are working,” Smith said.

She said it works for her community, but she isn’t sure how it will work in an urban setting. The Peoria Unifed School District Governing Board will decide tonight what works for them.

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