Could 4-Day School Weeks Be the Wave of the Future?

As teachers, we know that 5-day work weeks can be a little… um…. too much to handle sometimes. Sure we love our students, but as the school year grinds on, we start to really look forward to a 3-day weekend every now and then. What if your entire school year was made up of 4-day weeks and 3-day weekends. Sounds like paradise right? Well, some school districts in Colorado have started doing just that this year.

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The move to a 4-day week was made because of, why else? Money! With school funding on the decline, several school districts were forced into attempting the radical change. District officials say the plan would allow them to save money on transportation costs, electricity, heat, and other utilities. One school district estimated they would save $1-million over the course of an entire school year.

I realize this will be a significant change for our students, their families, and the communities we are so fortunate to serve, but our district can no longer be expected to do more with less financial resources.”   -District 27J Superintendent Chris Fiedler

On top of those estimated savings, school districts decided to turn the extra day off into a money-making opportunity, offering daycare for $30/day to parents who can’t leave their children home alone. To make up for the lost time, the other school days have been extended by 40 minutes.

The move has had some interesting ramifications throughout Colorado as more and more districts consider the switch. For starters, the budgetary savings aren’t quite as momentous as predicted. Teachers will still earn their full salaries, and even if no one is in school on a Monday, electricity, heat and air conditioning are still operational. However, there have been some unexpected benefits, for instance, when it comes to teacher retention.

Teachers love the extra planning time as well as the longer weekends. When one district in a region adopts the four-day week, it’s a recruitment advantage that puts pressure on other districts to operate on four days as well.”   -Antonio Parés of the Donnell-Kay Foundation

Parés says parents also enjoy the 4-day week, especially when it comes to making dentist and doctor appointments. Also, sporting events can be scheduled on that extra day off so children aren’t riding buses at all hours of the night.

The Donnell-Kay Foundation has been researching the 4-day school week for a while now, and they’ve noticed communities aren’t just throwing that extra day away. In some districts, parks and other state-run activity centers are being set up to attract students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go. Others are partnering with local businesses to offer students a chance to learn skills and get insight into potential job paths. The sky is the limit with these extra days off since they operate outside of the school district’s time, so there is no curriculum or politics to interfere. The Foundation has noticed that the “5th Day” is an opportunity for kids to learn the kinds of lessons that aren’t found in textbooks, breaking the educational mold that’s existed for decades.

It seems as if the 4-day school week could be the wave of the future, but many school districts nationwide are hesitant to attempt it. Breaking from tradition and upsetting the normal schedule of things can be tricky, especially in larger, more urban areas. But if teachers and students both benefit from the move, you would think more school districts would at least consider changing things up.

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