- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

CANEY, Kan. (AP) - A small southeast Kansas school district that is “hanging on by a thread” will have a four-day week for the rest of the school year to save money, the superintendent said.

The Caney Valley school board voted to add 10 minutes to each school day and cancel classes for the next five Fridays as the district of about 800 students responds to a $70,000 budget shortfall, The Wichita Eagle reported (https://bit.ly/22LNYrI ).

Enrollment adjustments, bus expenses and a reduction in state funding led to the decision, Superintendent Bud Vargas said in a written statement.

“A variety of unfortunate circumstances led to the current situation, but make no mistake, years of educational cuts have left us hanging on by a thread to make ends meet,” Vargas said in the written statement. “We are one of several districts who have had to make decisions to end school early and modify the school day due to financial reasons, and we will not be the last to do so. We can only hope that we receive better news in the future regarding the state of school funding in Kansas.”

Vargas said each canceled school day could save the district at least $7,500. Vargas said the four-day school week is a short-term solution that will allow the district to finish this budget year without having to use its dwindling reserves.

Other school districts are considering schedule changes to reduce costs as the state grapples with a multi-million dollar budget deficit and pressure on education funding. Gov. Sam Brownback earlier this month signed a school funding bill that redistributes $83 million in aid for the state’s 286 school districts for the next school year. That came after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in February that Kansas’ education funding was unfair to poorer districts. Justices threatened to close state schools if lawmakers didn’t address the problem by June 30.

The high court will hear oral arguments on whether the new education funding law is constitutional on May 10.

Jim Freeman, chief financial officer for Wichita schools, said the district of more than 51,000 students also could end the school year early, which would save at least $250,000 a day. His staff also might propose lengthening the school day but shortening the academic year for 2016-17.

“That is being discussed: Could we let school out a day or so early? That’s part of the analysis, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

Wichita district leaders tentatively approved several cuts last week and will discuss more reductions, which could include staff reductions or program cuts, on Monday.

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

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