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Idea of 4-day school week debated in Pa.

April 25, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Students and teachers should not get too excited at the prospect yet, but the Chambersburg Area School District's superintendent threw out the idea of a four-day week as one way to combat the rising cost of fuel.

"Would you consider a four-day school week next year if gas prices keep going up?" Joe Padasak asked members of the Franklin County Career and Technology Center Joint Operating Committee on Thursday. The subject had come up that day at a meeting of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools that Padasak attended in State College, Pa.

Padasak asked the committee members, all school board members from the six participating districts, to discuss the idea with their boards.

"We're talking, in our district, a mill," Padasak said of the proposed increase in Chambersburg's energy costs. At Wednesday's school board meeting, Business Manager Rick Vensel said he is budgeting almost $2.2 million to heat, light and cool the district's 25 buildings next year, up more than $700,000 from the current budget.

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That figure does not include the state reimbursable cost of transportation. In a district covering 250 square miles, the buses cover 10,000 miles per day moving students, according to previous board discussions on transportation.

"There's a lot of challenges there," Chambersburg board member David Sciamanna said. Increasing costs, however, could mean "extreme measures" will be needed.

"What impact is the tremendous increase in food costs going to have on our food services?" Chambersburg board member Stanley Helman asked.

At Wednesday's meeting, Helman also talked about cutting back on longer field trips and sports travel.

A four-day school week will present challenges of another kind for many families, such as higher child-care costs, Waynesboro board member Pat Heefner said.

"This is not going to end this year or next year," Heefner said of the energy crisis.

Padasak said an energy management program instituted by the district is resulting in a savings of up to 40 percent in some buildings.

After the meeting Padasak was asked if he thought the other districts would give a four-day week serious consideration.

"They may not now, but if the cost of fuel keeps going up, I guarantee they'll think about it," he said. The superintendent said he might suggest it to his board if diesel goes above $5 per gallon.

"Heck, it's at $4.50 now," he said.

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