Four-day school week gains momentum in rural districts - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Four-day school week gains momentum in rural districts

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ADVISORY: Spokane Public Schools is NOT considering a four-day school week

- Information from National Conference of State Legislatures and Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. - With strapped state budgets and alluring promises of significant reductions in overhead and transportation costs, the four-day school week has been an increasingly attractive option for legislators seeking to cut education costs.

According to the National School Boards Association (NSBA), a handful of states, with mostly rural school districts, are experimenting with altering their school calendar. For small, remote school districts, instituting a four-day school week may provide considerable savings by reducing transportation, heating and other overhead costs.

Select districts in about 17 states already follow a four-day week and legislators in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Missouri and Washington have introduced similar proposals.

The Daily Inter Lake reports that the West Glacier school district in Montana could save about $700 in utilities and its custodial position - about 20 to 25 hours a week - would be cut by 20 percent.

While there's still debate about how much districts will save, proponents say the shortened week can improve attendance and teacher retention. As for academics, studies have shown the four-day schedule does not hinder student achievement, and may even help improve test scores.

Supporters of the shortened week also boast of improved morale, open Fridays for sporting events and doctor appointments and more time to spend with loved ones.

Some districts have even reported fewer disciplinary referrals and more classroom participation.

"It's hard to get to the why, of course, because so many things affect student achievement," said Andrea D. Beesley of Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning in Denver.

State laws govern how many days students must attend class each year. In places where four-day weeks are allowed, districts are required to hold an equivalent number of instructional hours. That typically means adding just over an hour of class each day.

Critics worry, however about burdening working parents with extra child care costs and question whether students - especially younger ones in elementary school - can handle a longer school day without getting tired.

Officials in districts that have four-day school weeks caution that it falls short of being a magic bullet for school budgets. For example, even though a school may be without students, utilities must be kept on because it's still a gathering place for the community and athletic competitions.

Additionally, educational experts worry that increased time outside of the classroom could lead to a digression in learned concepts while also making it more difficult to offer elective classes, however the jury is still out, as there is a lack of comprehensive studies. 

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Source: Text in this article was taken directly from the National Conference of State Legislatures and Associated Press. Spokane Public Schools are not considering a four-day school week.