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Many US Schools Consider Four-Day School Week

January 28, 2009 12:29 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
To save on transportation, electricity and other costs, some schools are considering transitioning to a four-day school week.

An Extra Day Off From School?

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As many schools around the United States face budget cuts, some are considering moving their students to a four-day school week to accommodate tough financial times.

The idea could cut down what they spend on transportation for students and general operating costs for their buildings.

In Montana, where the Lincoln School Board is assessing whether a shorter school week would be right for its students, school board member Bill Cyr said there are multiple potential benefits.

Students in Victor, Mont., who have been on a four-day schedule for three years, are demonstrating better academic performance, missing fewer days of school and showing an increase in morale, he explained to the Billings Gazette.

Cyr said he first became interested in a shortened school week when he learned how it could help the school’s budget.

Budget woes have prompted officials in Maine to examine the idea of a shorter week, too. The state began considering the move when heating oil prices jumped.

Even though those prices are better, aid from the state was cut.

But those endorsing the idea must also contend with concerns over how special needs students and school employees will fare if four-day weeks are instituted for schools.

“There is going to be enormous pressure on school officials to be creative” with relieving their budgets, Rep. Sawin Millett told the Kennebec Journal. “This is just one tool, an arrow in the quiver, for them to think outside the box.”
 
The Kennebec Journal reported that 17 states currently allow their schools to use modified schedules.

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Opinion & Analysis: Are shortened school weeks helpful?

Whether a shortened school week is helpful or harmful to students seems to be up for debate.

In Washington state, a group of lawmakers has proposed that the schools have the authority to switch to a four-day school week if they want to. While some school officials have admitted that shortening the school week could save on bills, others have some concerns.

“A lot of students need a place to go five days a week,” Superintendent Ben Soria told the Yakima Herald-Republic Online. Soria also wondered whether extra time spent in a classroom during the day to make sure students still receive required hours of schooling could cause burn-out.

The Oregon City School District has also placed the idea of a four-day school week on the table as a means of helping repair a $6 million budget deficit. Parents in Colton, Ore., where students have had four-day weeks for five years, like the idea, according to KATU.com.

Many say they enjoy spending more time with their children, and “daycare costs are a wash” because the district lengthened school hours to fit the four-day schedule.

As for academics, Superintendent Linda Johnson said the shorter week doesn’t seem to have harmed the students. Children are performing better in math, science and reading, scoring higher than state averages.

Year-Round Schooling

To help issues of overcrowding, some schools use a year-round schedule. Lengthy summer breaks are shortened and replaced with more evenly distributed vacations throughout the calendar year instead. While one group of students is on break, another group will remain in school, allowing teachers to accommodate more students than they could on the usual nine-month calendar.

Some educators said a shorter summer would prevent kids from having a “slowdown or loss of learning,” but a new study suggests that the claim isn’t true, according to ScienceDaily.

After accounting for factors like poverty and overcrowding, sociologist Paul von Hippel said the improvement kids in year-round school demonstrated in tests of math and reading was less than 1 percent, which is an “absolutely trivial difference” compared to students who go to school nine months at a time.

Related Topic: Four-day workweeks

In July 2008, Hawaiian state agencies were mulling a condensed workweek to save gas by commuting less often. Utah state employees were also set to start working four-day weeks for similar reasons.
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