BY GENNA NORDLING
Upon first glance, the idea of a four-day school week looks great because students will have Friday off every weekend. But, this is the only real benefit that comes from switching to this schedule.
To students, a four-day school week simply means less time in school and more time for fun on the weekends, but, to parents, it is a scheduling nightmare. For many lower class families, taking an extra day off of school every week is alarming because the length of a work week is not changing in length to match. Meaning that, for these families, money will have to be put toward a daycare service to monitor young children for the day.
The four-day week may work in rural areas since there are fewer people that must work conventional 9-5 jobs. However, in urban areas, this schedule poses many challenges for the families that need to work these hours.
Another issue that the four-day school week poses to these families is food. For families with low incomes, their children may be eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals from the school. If that child’s school switches to a four-day week, the family may have to choose between having an adult watch their child or their child having access to food.
Either way, it is very dangerous. These problems make the four-day week very undesirable for low-income families. If their local public schools switch to that calendar, these families will be put in a tough situation where they cannot afford to move, but also cannot afford to stay.
One reason a school would switch to this schedule is to save money. According to National Public Radio (NPR), one of the largest school districts in Colorado, District 27J, had to switch over to the four-day school week because they could no longer afford to have five days every week with the amount of financial resources they were given. It is unfortunate that education is so poorly funded that schools are finding themselves in situations in which they are forced to close on a weekday.
The superintendent of District 27J, Chris Fielder, estimated that the district would save about $1 million, and $700,000 of that would solely come from not operating buses on that one extra day. Though switching to the shorter schedule may save schools money, it isn’t an exceptional amount.
“It was found that districts that moved to a four-day week have experienced actual savings of only between 0.4 percent and 2.5 percent,” Michael Griffith said in a study published by the Education Commission of the States examining six school districts that switched to the four-day schedule.
Though it negatively affects low-income families and the savings it makes are small, people will argue that schools should switch to the four-day school week because it is advantageous to the learning patterns of the students. An MIT Press Journals study found that students that were subjected to a four-day week of school had shown significant improvements in their math skills. But other studies, such as this unpublished study from Portland State University, have found a decline in the academic performance from students that are minorities, have disabilities and are from low-income families that have switched to a four-day schedule.
It is unfair for schools to switch to this four-day school week, especially if they do not desperately need the money, and leave students in unfair situations to suffer. When schools like those in District 27J are in tough financial situations and need to switch to the four-day schedule, it is an unfair situation for everyone involved. Perhaps in the future, in order to avoid this problem, the government can give schools adequate funding so they do not have to shut down a school for one day every week just to save money.
Photo curtesy of The Lariat Photography