This town teaches 3 R's only four days a week

When the school budget was cut, something had to go. And what went in this small town was school on Friday.

The four-day school week went well last year for the 270 students at the George B. White Elementary School, and it is working again this year, according to George I. Blaisdell, superintendent of the district.

Costs have been cut, he said, and the students are learning ''as well, if not better. . . . I cannot find any decrease in performance using the same gross methods. By that I mean the same standardized tests,'' he said, adding that teachers report the students seem to be learning more.

In addition, the change has acted as a catalyst in some ways, fostering a renewed interest in education among the school staff and the community, Mr. Blaisdell says.

For example, teachers have had to reexamine the curriculum, and townspeople have become much more involved in the school. Teacher absenteeism is down 60 percent, he says, and as many as 40 volunteers a week may be working in the school.

''We are pioneers of sorts on this and we have the pioneer spirit, I guess,'' Blaisdell said.

With the help of a small grant, one townsperson has been organizing community and school projects. As a result, those ''free'' Fridays often are filled with field trips, sports events, and skiing trips sponsored by the community.

Many parents report that having their youngsters home an extra day has actually improved the times they share together.

The school district, which includes grades one through eight, is saving about transportation and janitorial costs, and fewer substitute teachers are being used.

Energy costs are down, too, but the superintendent says it is hard to tell how much. ''I don't know how much we save on the four-day week and how much (is saved from) the new roof,'' Blaisdell explains.

The district would like to continue the four-day week, he said, but will have to apply for approval from the state Board of Education, which is watching the experiment carefully and requiring frequent testing to make certain Deerfield's students are not losing out.

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