Public schools across the country are cutting their budgets in creative ways that challenge community stakeholders. One example is moving to a four-day school week. The four-day schedule has a nearly 50-year history in the United States, and of the 15,000 school districts in the country, over 120 have moved to a four-day schedule.
A four-day schedule can free up professional development time for teachers and save school districts money, but the change involves challenges for school stakeholders. Schools considering this move need to weigh the pros and cons carefully.
The Benefits of Moving to a Four-Day School Week
By altering the traditional school schedule, districts can save money. Each school day involves expenses like utilities and water consumption, as well as meals and cafeteria expenses. Many school staff members earn hourly wages, so labor savings add up quickly on the days when they do not work.
During a four-day school week, teachers use the fifth day for professional development and in service. Proponents of this type of school scheduling suggest students can use this time for special tutoring or enrichment activities. Further, many schools that switch to a four-day week extend existing school days, so students benefit from longer class periods involving more hands-on learning.
Athletics tend to take up a lot of school time. Many schools that opt for a four-day school week also change their athletic schedules to include practices and meets on the fifth day so that athletics do not interfere with academics.
Many students and staff miss days due to appointments and other engagements. Having one unscheduled day a week allows them to schedule those appointments outside of school hours. This can prevent students from falling behind and keep teachers from taking unneeded personal days.
The longer school days of the four-day schedule means students get home around the time their parents return from work. This means afterschool programs may not be necessary, which will save parents money and ensure that kids are not coming home to empty houses.
The Challenges of Moving to a Four-Day School Week
Changing school scheduling means parents will need to find childcare for the days children are not in school. The rising cost of safe and effective childcare could mean an additional $1,500 in expenses per household per year. For families on a budget, this expense can be burdensome to the point of being unfeasible.
While schools can move athletic practices and meets to the unscheduled fifth day of the week, the four-day schedule will not leave time for additional practices throughout the week. Furthermore, some families may not be able to accommodate the athletic schedules of the fifth day, which means students may not get to participate in extracurricular activities.
For some children, school is the safest environment. At school, they get regular meals, supervised recreation, and meaningful adult attention. For these children, a five-day school week is usually the better option.
Longer days mean wearier children. The younger the child, the more difficult an eight-hour school day can be. For older children, a longer day means even longer nights doing homework. This leaves little time for play, relaxation and exercise.
Should Schools Drop a Day of the Week?
Like everything else in the educational system, every decision affecting such a large group of stakeholders requires a great deal of thought. When districts consider a four-day school week, they should take a full year to conduct research and discuss the challenges with all stakeholders prior to implementing a plan.
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