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Lake Superior schools approved for 4-day week

The Minnesota Department of Education commissioner sent a letter Wednesday to the Lake Superior School District approving them for one more year of the four-day school week.

Five school districts in Minnesota received the same letter stating they were approved to continue the four-day school week for the 2015-16 school year only. MDE commissioner Brenda Cassellius stated in the letter that due to the "uncertainty of the outcome of proposed legislation related to flexible learning year programs currently at the Minnesota Legislature," she is approving the request for just one year.

The five districts that were approved include LSSD, Blackduck, Ogilvie, MACCRAY in west central Minnesota and Pelican Rapids. All of these school districts were told in May 2014 that they would have to return to a traditional five-day school week in the 2015-16 school year, but under current state law they are allowed to reapply for the flexible learning year.

Currently, there is a bill making its way through the Senate and House committees that would take the control of approving flexible learning year schedules, such as the four-day school week, away from the MDE commissioner and put it in the hands of local school boards. Representatives from all of the districts, including students and parents, have testified at committee meetings in favor of the bill. If passed, the law would go into effect next school year.

LSSD went to a four-day week in 2011 as a cost-saving measure. The district saved, on average, $168,000 a year under the new structure. Surveys sent out during the past four years have shown that the majority of district parents, students and teachers that have responded view the four-day week positively.

MDE officials have maintained that the four-day week isn't good for student performance, and that test scores have not been improving in school districts with four-day weeks. In Two Harbors and Silver Bay, test scores haven't fallen overall since the four-day week started, but few gains have been made.

According to Superintendent Bill Crandall, the reaction of the staff was very positive after the announcement was made Wednesday and the administration was relieved.

"Now we have direction for next year," he said. "We know what we are doing and we can move forward with plans for next year."

Crandall said he wasn't surprised by the decision the commissioner made.

"This is the exact scenario I thought would happen," he said. "If the legislature makes the change, (the MDE) will be out of the loop next year anyways."

With the projected budget for next year, the district would have been in good standing whether they were operating under the four-day week or five-day week.

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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