The Pros and Cons of a Four-Day School Week

Building in Elementary Class with their Teacher

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Across the United States, several school districts have begun to explore, experiment with, and embrace a shift to a four-day school week. Just a decade ago this shift would have been unimaginable. However, the landscape is changing thanks to several factors including a slight change in public perception. 

Perhaps the biggest shift giving leeway to the adoption of a four-day school week is that an increasing number of states have passed legislation giving schools the flexibility to substitute the number of instructional days for instructional hours. The standard requirement for schools is 180 days or an average range of 990-1080 hours. Schools are able to switch to a four-day week by simply increasing the length of their school day. Students are still getting the same amount of instruction in terms of minutes, just in a shorter number of days.

Too Early to Tell

The shift to a four-day school week is so new that the research to support or oppose the trend is inconclusive at this point. The truth is that more time is needed to answer the most pressing question. Everyone wants to know how a four-day school week will impact student performance, but conclusive data to answer that question simply does not exist at this point.

While the jury is still out on its impact on student performance, there are several clear pros and cons of moving to a four-day school week. The fact remains that the needs of every community are different. School leaders must carefully weigh any decision to move to four-day weekend seeking out community feedback on the topic through the use of surveys and public forums. They must publicize and examine the pros and cons associated with this move. It may turn out to be the best option for one district and not another.

Saving School Districts Money

Moving to a four-day school week saves the district money. Most schools that have chosen to move to a four-day school week do so because of the financial benefits. That one extra day saves money in the areas of transportation, food services, utilities, and some areas of personnel. Though the amount of savings can be argued, every dollar matters and schools are always looking to pinch pennies.

A four-day school week can improve student and teacher attendance. Appointments for doctors, dentists, and home maintenance services are able to be scheduled on that extra day off. Doing this naturally boost attendance for both teachers and students. This improves the quality of education the student receives because they have fewer substitute teachers and are themselves in class more often.

Higher Teach Morale

Moving to a four-day school week boosts student and teacher morale. Teachers and students are happier when they have that extra day off. They come back at the start of the workweek refreshed and focused. They feel like they accomplished more over the weekend and were also able to get some extra rest. Their minds come back clearer, rested, and ready to go to work.

This also allows teachers more time for planning and collaboration. Many teachers are using the day off for professional development and preparation for the upcoming week. They are able to research and put together higher quality lessons and activities. Furthermore, some schools are using the day off for structured collaboration where teachers work and plan together as a team.

Better Quality of Life for Families

The change can provide students and teachers more time with their families. Family time is an important part of American culture. Many parents and teachers are using the extra day off as a family day for activities such as exploring a museum, hiking, shopping, or traveling. The extra day has given families the chance to bond and do things that would not have been able to otherwise.

Teachers Already on Board

The change can be a great recruiting tool for attracting and hiring new teachers. The majority of teachers are on board with the move to a four-day school week. It is an attractive element that many teachers are happy to jump on. School districts that have moved to a four-day week often find that their pool of potential candidates is higher in quality than it was before the move.

Evidence Against a Four-Day School Week

Moving to a four-day school week increases the length of the school day. The trade-off for a shorter week is a longer school day. Many schools are adding thirty minutes to both the beginning and end of the school day. This extra hour can make the day pretty long especially for younger students, which can often lead to a loss of focus later in the day. Another drawback to a longer school day is that it gives students less time in the evening to participate in extracurricular activities.

Shifting Costs to Parents

Moving to a four-day school week also has many drawbacks. The first of which is that it shifts a financial burden to parents. Childcare for that extra day off can become a major financial burden for working parents. Parents of younger students, in particular, may be forced to pay for costly daycare services. In addition, parents must provide meals, typically provided by the school, on that day off.

Student Accountability

The extra day off may also lead to less accountability for some students. Many students may be unsupervised on the extra day off. The lack of supervision translates to less accountability which could potentially lead to some reckless and dangerous situations. This is especially true for students whose parents work and make the decision to allow their children to stay home by themselves in lieu of structured childcare.

Moving to a four-day school week will potentially increase the amount of homework a student receives. Teachers will have to resist the urge to increase the amount of homework that they give to their students. The longer school day will give students less time in the evenings to complete any homework. Teachers must approach homework cautiously, limiting homework during the school week and potentially giving them assignments to work on over the weekend.

Still A Divisive Subject

Moving to a four-day school week can divide a community. There is no denying that the potential move to a four-day school week is a sensitive and divisive topic. There will be constituents on both sides of the aisle, but little is accomplished when there is contention. In difficult financial times, schools must examine all cost-saving options. Members of the community elect school board members to make difficult choices and they ultimately must trust those decisions.

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Your Citation
Meador, Derrick. "The Pros and Cons of a Four-Day School Week." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Meador, Derrick. (2020, August 28). The Pros and Cons of a Four-Day School Week. Retrieved from Meador, Derrick. "The Pros and Cons of a Four-Day School Week." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 1, 2023).