What are the struggles and benefits of a four-day school week?
March 10, 2020
Small schools across the state tend to struggle with a limited budget and teacher retention. One way to alleviate this struggle, is to shift to a four-day school week. Three schools in Eastern Idaho are planning on moving to a four-day school week this fall. Currently, there are 45 school districts and 15 charter schools already operating on a four-day week, or approximately 11 percent of Idaho students.
My kids have been part of that 11 percent.
For over nine years, my children attended school in a small district. Much to my surprise, the district switched to a four-day week when I had three kids in elementary school and one in middle school. It took all of us, the students, parents, teachers and community, a while to adjust to the four-day week. I was fortunate to have the ability to stay home with my kids, while some parents complained of the struggle to find affordable daycare.
In order to get enough classroom hours with a shorter week, the K-12 schools began at 8 a.m. and ended at 3:47 p.m. It doesn’t seem like much, but an extra hour of education every day requires a lot of brain work (for students and teachers). For my younger kids, the school days seemed especially long and they came home exhausted. Aside from the suggested 20 minutes of reading a day, the teachers tried to avoid sending homework home, so when the students finished their day, they could go home and just be kids.
My older kids who were involved in sports seemed to spend the entire day at school. So, Monday through Thursday, my kids were either totally worn out and grouchy, or not home.
There were some nice perks of a four-day week. The middle and high schools attempted to plan most of the athletic away games on Thursdays. With smaller school districts, this is really important. The athletes travel long distances to compete with other small schools and end up returning to the school around midnight, sometimes even later. With the four-day week, when the bus full of athletes and coaches returned home late on a Thursday, it did not negatively impact the next day.
There were lots of other perks to having a four-day school week, perks like: the ability to plan appointments without having to pull the kids out of school, taking the family to visit the zoo or a museum when everyone else was in school, and sleeping in. I also enjoyed the opportunity to run errands with my kids and having an extra day to get house and yard work done together.
Does your school operate on a four day week? What are the struggles and benefits your family encounters?