PORTLAND (AP) – More than 100 school districts in 16 states have decided to go with four-day school weeks. At least one state has told its employees to work four days a week. Now, the energy-saving idea is beginning to get serious consideration in Maine.

Growing trend

In Saco, city officials are scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to move to a four-day work week for City Hall employees. With approval, Saco would join the Bangor Public Works Department, which has started a four-day work week.

Other towns considering a similar move include Belfast, Old Orchard Beach, Kittery, Kennebunk, Fairfield, Houlton, Sebago, Etna and Bridgton, said Saco City Clerk Lucette Pellerin. With high motor fuel and heating oil costs, the four-day week would save energy and save money.

A voluntary four-day work schedule for state employees is part of Gov. John Baldacci’s $12.6 million energy-action plan. Some state employees are taking part, but the number of participants isn’t available, said Chip Gavin, director of the state Bureau of General Services.

Pushing participation

“We are making proactive efforts to encourage our employees to consider whether they want to try an alternative schedule,” Gavin said.

The state Education Department is considering submitting a bill when the 2009 legislative session gets under way that would allow school districts to have four-day weeks.

Under present state law, Maine students must be in school at least 175 days per year. By changing the minimum requirement so it’s expressed in hours, local districts would have the option of going to four-day school weeks.

Transportation savings

State Sen. Nancy Sullivan said she would like to introduce a bill to that effect if she’s re-elected in November. The Biddeford Democrat said such a policy would bring an automatic 25 percent reduction in transportation costs.

Four-day work plans, if implemented by municipalities, can save employees money by requiring them to commute less, while municipalities cut utility bills in public buildings.

Utah became the first state this summer to institute a mandatory four-day work week for most state employees. Exemptions are allowed for public universities, courts and prisons.

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