Four-Day School Week: Public Schools Continue To Adopt Shorter School Week Despite Parent, Guardian Concerns

With only a few more months left in the current school year, public schools are already looking ahead to the next school year. Some public school districts are facing a cut in government funding for the 2017-18 school year and are brainstorming ways to make budget cuts, which may include switching from a five-day school week to a four-day school week. In an attempt to save money, some public schools across the nation have already adopted the four-day school week, despite concerns from parents and guardians.

The Journal-Advocate out of Colorado reported on Thursday that talk of a four-day school week next year for the RE-1 Valley school district is drawing frustration from some parents. RE-1 Valley, located in Sterling, Colorado, shared a short four-day school week description, along with some research and an information manual, on the school’s website, adding that the four-day school week is just one tool in the “education administrators’ toolbox to reduce costs.”

In fact, the RE-1 Valley school district, with just over 2,000 students, would reportedly save an estimated $250,000 by switching to a four-day school week next year. However, according to one parent, the school district actually needs to cut $1 million from the 2017-18 budget, and saving only a quarter of that amount with a four-day school week is not a long-term solution. Parents also brought up other cons of switching to a four-day school week, including problems with childcare one day a week, along with long and exhausting school days for the remaining four days.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute also brought up the concern that a four-day school week could leave some kids hungry on that one day they’re not in school, stating that some kids only get reliable meals from school — especially students who qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program. Cutting back to a four-day school week, according to the report, could have a devastating effect on parents who can’t stretch their budget enough to provide extra meals throughout the week.

A four-day school week would also mean extending school hours, leaving students hungry later in the afternoon, especially since lunch typically starts serving well before noon. Offering another meal or even a snack to students later in the school day would be one solution to sending students home hungry, but it would also mean an additional cost to school districts that are ultimately attempting to cut costs.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says that the concept of a four-day school week is nothing new and dates back as early as the 1930s but has only recently started to gain popularity, especially among teachers and students. Currently, there are more than 120 school districts in 21 states that have adopted the four-day school week, boasting savings in electricity, heating, transportation, food, and staff costs. An article published on Reference also notes that student attendance, but not necessarily student achievement, has been higher for schools that switched to a four-day school week.

Seattle P-I shared that the financial savings to school districts that have jumped on the four-day school week “bandwagon” are substantial, regardless of the size of the school district, and outweigh any negatives brought forth by the parents.

A four-day school week has also become the newest trend for Missouri public schools, according to MO Parent. Eighteen districts in Missouri have already adopted the four-day school week, mainly rural districts, including Pierce City and Miller. East Newton is the newest and one of the largest school districts in Southwest Missouri to adopt a four-day school week for the 2017-18 school year.

The Joplin Globe shared on January 10 that the East Newton R-VI school district was considering adopting a four-day school week and had already surveyed the staff, who reportedly supported the idea of a four-day school week by 66 percent. The article goes on to say that if “all parties agree,” the four-day school week would be implemented in August of 2017. The article also stated that “community input” would be used to determine whether to proceed with a four-day school week. The East Newton school board went ahead and passed the four-day school week on Thursday — with an uncontested 6-0 vote — during a routine work session even though parents and guardians were still turning in surveys and a community meeting had just been held the previous night.

Assistant professor in the Montana State University Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics Mark Anderson said on the National Education Association website that “just about every state has school districts either adopting or thinking about a four-day school week, something that is considered during tough budget times in public schools.” However, a study in Montana, a state that has over 100 schools currently on a four-day school week, concludes that changing to a four-day school week may not “work in the long term.”

What do you think about a four-day school week versus the standard five-day school week? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

[Featured Image by Allen J.M. Smith/Shutterstock]

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