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Mohawk seeks law for 4-day week

Wants to be ready to move forward if it looks like right move

  • School Superintendent Michael Buoniconti

    School Superintendent Michael Buoniconti

  • Mohawk Trail Regional School District Superintendent Michael Buoniconti<br/>Recorder file photo

    Mohawk Trail Regional School District Superintendent Michael Buoniconti
    Recorder file photo

  • School Superintendent Michael Buoniconti
  • Mohawk Trail Regional School District Superintendent Michael Buoniconti<br/>Recorder file photo

BUCKLAND — The Mohawk Trail Regional School District Committee has unanimously agreed to seek legislation that could some day make it possible for the Mohawk middle school and high school to develop a four-day school week curriculum.

The committee is sending a letter to local state legislators, supporting a bill that would credit school systems for how many learning hours students spend in school — not on how many days per year. The state Education Reform Act gives “time and learning” requirements for minimum hours that children must spend on core academic and other subjects each school year (990 for Grades 7 through 12; 900 for elementary students), and it requires public schools to hold classes 180 days per year.

“Right now, we’re required to meet time-and-learning and 180 days,” Buoncionti explained.

If the 180-day requirement were dropped, it would be possible for students to get the same amount of learning time in four school days, which would last about 90 minutes longer than Mohawk’s school days are now.

“The School Committee doesn’t want to come across as advocating the four-day plan, they just want the option, if the research supports it,” Buoniconti added. “It might take a year for this legislation initiative to play out. While the legislation is being done, I’ll be working on the research.”

Buoniconti says he plans to make the four-day school week the subject of his doctoral dissertation.

Buoniconti has also discussed the idea, and the need for a change in legislation with Sen. Ben Downing, and with state Reps. Stephen Kulik and Paul Mark.

Last week, Buoniconti also discussed the idea with state Secretary of Education Matthew H. Malone, who visited Mohawk’s elementary schools for the first time.

Buoniconti said the publicity about the possibility of a four-day school week here has generated more interest in the Mohawk system by state government officials. Matthew visited the district for about four hours, as Buoniconti drove him to the different elementary schools in the 250-square-mile school district. Despite having only 1,000 students, Mohawk is, geographically speaking, the largest school district in the state.

“I wanted to give him an overview of the district, for him to appreciate how very different this district is from any other,” he said.

Buoniconti began looking into the four-day school week for Grade 7 through 12 students, as a way to reduce costs without affecting the quality of education. The Mohawk school week would run Monday through Thursday, and staff would have professional development training on alternate Fridays.

Buoniconti said about 300 school districts nationwide have moved to four-day weeks, saving about 20 percent of their costs of school building utilities and school bus transportation. Also, staff attendance has risen in those schools, cutting down costs for substitute staff.

Last month, Buoniconti said, if the idea “gains traction” the four-day school week wouldn’t be implemented until the fall of 2015.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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