The John Doe School District of Little Town, Colorado is a rural district with an enrolment of a little under 1,000 students. Houses in the area are few and far apart; buses have to drive, on average, nearly 900 miles a day. All forms of travel require a large part of the day, and students and teachers have to miss a large part of the school day
to attend to personal appointments in the larger city of Hugeville. With a small population, the district has trouble finding substitute teachers on short notice. On Fridays about 37% of the students are on a bus driving to a sporting event. When the superintendent looked at their budget for the next five years he found that there could be a lack of money and some activates might have to be cut. After doing some research, he discovered that if he switched to the four-day school week
he could save $1,000,000 (Reeves). A four-day school week would be a great benefit to the John Doe School district. The system is ideal for rural schools, and that is what Little Town is. It has many benefits with little problems that can be fixed or are so minute that they hardly affect the issue.
The four-day week started in early '70s New Mexico
to deal with the high transportation and electric costs during the energy crisis. When the shortened week was first being debated, the New Mexico Legislature ruled out larger districts; it wouldn't be nearly as expense reducing since commutes are shorter in a larger area. On top of that, the child-care problem is much more difficult to tackle in urban areas. Jack McCoy, deputy director of learning services at the New Mexico Department of Education, said, "...in larger cities, you typically had more families with both parents working." There are also fewer child-care options in large cities (Reeves). According to the New York Times, in the year 2002, thirty-six out of 180 districts in Colorado, and twenty out of forty-eight in Wyoming were using the shorter week. There are also a "smattering in Arizona, Louisiana, and Utah" that have gone to the new calendar. Most of these districts are in small rural areas ("Four-Day").
Changes in the state requirements were necessary to get this system to work. Since students were going to school one less day a week the requirement had to be changed from days to hours. To meet the new minimum hours, school days were made longer by ninety minutes (Becker).
With these new laws in place, schools can then take advantage of the four-day school week. One of the greatest things about the four-day week is probably the most obvious that there is one less day of school. Now it may just sound like students will not have to go to as much school, but students would actually be in school the same amount of time. The hours lost on the other day are just added on to the other four days. The free day can then be used for many things. Lewis Diggs, superintendent of schools in Saratoga, Arkansas, implemented the four-day system in his schools. With the extra day off, they brought students in for tutoring. The students would sign up for which subjects they wanted tutoring in. The school could then bring in the required teachers. This would mean extra pay for the teachers and greater learning for the student. This kind of work environment would be much more beneficial to the student because he would receive instruction in a quite, more personal environment (Guignon). Paying teachers for their work on the day off would cost extra money. The day off would actually save more money over all than it would cost to pay a few teachers for their extra services.
Having a day off has other benefits. Better attendance and focus for students and teachers is one of these. The day off can be used for doctor's appointments. On Fridays, the students who all leave for sporting events will not have to miss a day of school. On these Fridays, the students and teachers who do stay in school often find a lack of motivation, dubbed the "Friday football flu." This is primarily caused by students and teacher coaches who are on their way to a game, leaving classes full of substitute teachers and small student populations (Reeves).
There are some parents who worry that an extra day off will "encourage students to play truant" ("Parents"). Au contraire mon ami. Students will have much more drive to go to school with an extra day off. Five days a week can start to get to students. With a longer weekend, students would not be feeling the effects of the previous week as harshly.
Even what was originally thought to be a problem can actually be turned into a benefit. With one less day, a week the time lost had to be added on to the other four days, as much, as a ninety-minute increase. Many people believed that with longer class periods, students would lose focus, especially the younger students, and academics would suffer. Jon Ott, the Cove School District's administrative assistant, observed, "with fewer distraction, class time has been more productive" (Reeves). Hot Springs Schools have also found the longer days to be advantageous. A survey of the teachers showed that they liked the longer classes because it allowed them to teach more without interruptions. They felt that the increased time improved academic performance. In other schools, staff felt that they were able to do a better job with more instructional and planning time ("Four-Day").
Most people of the world work a five-day week. With students on a four day-week who is going to take care of the children? Many schools have looked into this and there are many grants to help establish day cares (Wilson). In Hot Springs, located in the state of South Dakota, the school district received such a grant: an Out-of-School Time Grant. With this grant in place younger students, K-8, can participate in educational enrichment activities on Fridays and after school ("Four-Day") According to Diggs, parents also found that with longer school days "... it was less trouble to find someone for all day [on the off day] than for a few hours every day of the week." (Guignon).
One unexpected benefit that arose from this new system was a slight academic improvement in some schools that implemented the four-day week. "The four-day school week was probably one of those few decisions made in education in the name of money that actually ended up having educational benefits in terms of the academic performance of kids," said the director of the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory in Portland, Oregon, Joyce Ley (Reeves). With longer days, teachers felt that they were able to give a more thorough lesson. A four-day week is also much more appealing for teachers. With more teachers, applying the school could have a better, bigger and more varied teaching staff. Many of the teachers would still come on the day off and give tutoring sessions for any student struggling in the class (Wilson).
Many studies have not shown any direct correlation between the shorter week and improvement in academics; some have. Not to say that either is more correct than the other is, the fact still stands that there has been no proof that this new week has any signs of being a problem academically. With the other benefits, it is worth the risk of possible better academics (Toppo).
The main reason most schools went to the four-day week was to cut costs. According to Robb Rankin, the superintendent of the East Grand School District, "you get an immediate twenty percent cut in your food services budget, twenty percent in transportation and some savings in energy and custodial costs" ("Seven"). The East Grand School District of Granby, Colorado cut $206,000 a year in transportation, personnel and substitutes (Reeves). With these cuts, many rural school districts were able to keep art, music, and other classes that are cut when budgets get tight (Toppo). School districts cannot just make cuts. "You've got to take that money and put it back into staff development or other programs that are favored by the parents," says Joe Newlin, of the National Rural Education Association at Colorado State University. The Saratoga, Arkansas Public School superintendent, Lewis Diggs, did just that. He took the $40,000 that was saved on the four-day week and put back into tutoring programs for students, as well as, pre-kindergarten programs (Reeves).
The four-day week is a wonderful thing. It could be a great new approach for schools. Saving money, improving academics, and more, the four-day week could be one of the greatest things to happen to the human education system since the pen and paper. Living in a rural town with lots of travel time the one less day for travel would, most definitely come in quite budget handy for the superintendent of the John Doe School District.
Becker, Jerry. "Michigan: Four-day school week." Mathforum.org. 14 June 2003. 24 October, 2003
Guignon, Anne. "Is the Four-Day School Week Coming Your Way?" Education-world.com. 1998. 22 October 2003 < http://www.education-world.com/a_issues/issues038.shtml>
"Parents angry at four-day school week." BBC News. 9 October 2000. 22 October 2003
Reeves, Kimberly. "The Four-Day School Week " School Administrator. 1999 March. 23 October, 2003
"Seven States Adopt Four-Day School Week." Washingtonpost.com. 26 December 2003. 25 October 2003
"The Four-Day Week." Hot Springs District Schools. 19 October 2003. 25 October 2003
Toppo, Greg. "In rural areas, the four-day school week is growing in popularity." Csmonitor.com. 20 August 2002. 22 October 2003 < http://www.csmonitor. com/2002/0820/p14s02-lecs.html >
Wilson, Lynette. "Franklin Parish considers four-day school week." Thenewstar.com. 13 August 2003. 23 October 2003