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Pelican Rapids approves four-day school week

Pelican Rapids school board members on Monday approved a four-day school week to begin this fall.

With just seven weeks until classes resume, the district will submit a 70-plus-page application to the Minnesota Department of Education for approval.

The cash-strapped district hopes to save almost $100,000 in transportation, energy and support staff costs.

The 924-student district started exploring the option in May when taxpayers defeated a $700-per-pupil levy.

"Our backs are against the wall here, and we have to do the best with what we have," said board member Kathy Ouren.

The longtime board member said she had many reservations about her vote in favor of the measure.

"This is the most gut-wrenching decision I've ever made," Ouren said.

The district has faced a tight timeline in organizing and researching the switch.

But high school principal Brian Korf says his teachers are ­ready.

"Our staff will be prepared, whether it's a four-day or five-day week," Korf said Monday.

Classes will be held Tuesday through Friday with longer hours during the day.

Board Chairman Ron Perrin said he still has reservations about the change, but the board received limited public opposition in an online survey and four public meetings.

But not all board members favored the change. Jon Karger was the lone member to vote against it, saying the district should delay a decision a year until they know the extent of future state aid cuts.

"Basically, we're trying to dig ourselves a bunker for what we think is coming, but are we there yet?" Karger said.

Board members discussed an annual evaluation of the switch. Member Dena Johnson said she wants the reports to include financial savings and affects on academics.

Nine Minnesota schools have a four-day week. This spring, Norman County East leaders decided to delay switching after vocal community opposition to the proposal.

Pelican Rapids parents will receive a notification letter of the switch later this week, but the board asked that parents and students be patient during the change.

"It's going to be a big transition," Perrin said.