Kenneth M. O’Brien
Yesterday (March 21) I submitted a post to Speak Out Southbridge titled “Lean Forward, Southbridge!”
In it I asked the readers of Dennis Martinek’s blog to come forward with positive and constructive ideas to improve Southbridge. I pointed out proposals that had already been made by Dennis, Debby Gregoire-Lefebvre and Brent Abrahamson, as well as myself.
I have been very gratified by the substantial and thoughtful ideas that have already been proposed. I hope that many more will submit concrete and specific ideas rather than vague platitudes like “reduce taxes”, “cut water and sewer rates” or “bring in new businesses”.
I would like to add to the discussion by repeating a proposal that I made in 2008, while I was still on the council.
During the budget review of the proposed school department budget I proposed that we might consider going from a five-day school week to a four-day school week. In order to meet state requirements, each of the four-day sessions would be expanded by an hour and a half.
The motivation for the proposal was the dramatic increases in oil prices that impacted transportation and heating costs. There was also the ancillary prospective benefit of reduced insurance expenses.
I was roundly ridiculed for this proposal.
Today we are witnessing the same level of oil prices. We have also seen ever-dramatic increases in insurance costs.
However, something has been added to the discussion.
The additional factor is an article that appeared in Time Magazine only four months after I made my proposal. That article pointed out that 15% of the school districts in America had adopted just such a plan.
Not only were the financial savings substantial. Many districts also experienced a substantial reduction in absenteeism.
With budget season currently upon us, coupled with even greater constraints on our financial resources, perhaps it is time to reconsider my “crazy” idea.