- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2016

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Union officials say Wichita teachers have approved a plan to lengthen the school day and shorten the year.

United Teachers of Wichita president Steve Wentz told The Wichita Eagle (http://j.mp/1sRtUJW ) that nearly 70 percent of the more than 4,000 ballots the union received Wednesday morning were in favor of the proposed calendar.

The calendar was proposed as a way to trim about $3 million from next year’s budget. It’ll shorten the school year by 15 days for Wichita students and lengthen the school day by 30 minutes.

Under the new calendar, students will go to school 158 days in the 2016-17 school year instead of 173, and teachers will work 175 days instead of 190. Their pay will be unaffected by the changes.

“Everyone agrees this is not what is best for kids,” Wentz said. “Three weeks less of student contact is not what the students in (USD) 259 need.”

The Wichita school board must approve the proposed change. Members are expected to approve an addendum to this year’s teacher contract noting the calendar change, as well as a new calendar for the 2016-17 school year, during its June 6 meeting.

Board members have previously said they prefer the new calendar over other budget cuts, such as eliminating high school data leaders, outsourcing custodial managers, or eliminating elementary and middle school librarian positions.

“I know this was a decision not made lightly by our teachers,” said John Allison, superintendent. “Thankfully, this decision will allow us to move forward and finalize our budget without the loss of additional jobs or the outsourcing of services.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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