Four-day school week in the works?

WAKE COUNTY "There will be some pretty difficult cuts coming up this year," Wake County School Board Member Kieth Sutton said. "There are going to be some cuts that go pretty deep."

As chair of the finance committee, Sutton created a suggestion box for ideas on how to deal with a budget hole of up to $100 million. And within a couple weeks, hundreds of ideas were on the table.

"A transportation fee, athletics fee, perhaps a technology fee or textbook fee," Sutton said.

Perhaps the most eye-catching idea is that of a four-day school week.

Sutton says it presents obvious challenges, but is worth considering.

"Because we have three tier busses some running as early as 6:30 a.m. or 6 a.m., for us to extend the day any more, which is what we'd be talking about to get it down to a four-day week, would be pretty difficult for us to do," he said. "But it's something we'll definitely take a look at."

The problem for the school board is some of the suggestions, like the four-day school week would require legislative changes.

The good news, as they're considering them, is with Republicans in charge of the state legislature, some of those changes may be made.

"It's about how can you do things that are simulative," House Speaker-Elect Thom Tillis said.

Tillis says he wants to put more control in the hands of local school boards.

"We may fund you with less, but we may also mandate that you mandate less," he said. "In other words, give you more flexibility to run your school system the way that you think you need to run it."

But the school board shouldn't count on that flexibility this year. Its budget is due in March, which would give the legislature little more than a month to make those changes.

They will be focused on the state's budget problems in part, ironically, figuring out how much money to take away from schools.

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