The Public School District in Fort McMurray is looking into a number of options to help trim their budget – including introducing four day school weeks – in an effort to deal with a multi-million dollar budget deficit.

“When we did an update projection in late fall, in November, to the board, the projected deficit had grown to $4.4 million,” Fort McMurray Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Parsons said in a phone interview.

In an effort to trim their budget, the district is looking at options – including introducing a four-day school week.

The district said the model would mean most weeks would be four days, with the exception of a few five day weeks to get the required teaching hours in.

“We would go from 184 instructional days, which is where we are now, and if you took away 15, that would be down to 168 or 169 instructional days,” Parsons said.

Those fifteen days would mean school buses wouldn’t need to run – cutting $800,000.

While teachers would still work a full week, educational assistants wouldn’t be needed all week.

That move is a concern for the union.

“With cutbacks in the hours of educational assistants, that would mean less time for special needs students,” Lou Arab with the Canadian Union of Public Employees said. “It’ll mean that teachers are going to be stretched even thinner.”

This latest pitch is not the first time the idea has been brought forward in the area, it was also considered two years ago – but the community fought it.

In four recent town hall meetings on the concept, parents and community members fought it again.

However, Parsons said the district is trying to deal with a much bigger issue – the district is bursting at the seams.

“This district has opened one school, which is Ecole MacTavish, in the last 26 years,” Parsons said. “There are far too many modular classrooms to deal with the growth, and not enough construction of new schools.”

The province has said school boards are allowed to consider changes to their calendars, as long as students are getting their required instructional time – but it’s up to board officials to decide what’s best for the community.

A decision on the issue could be made as early as Feb. 19.

With files from Veronica Jubinville