With the nation’s school districts strapped for cash, there is some ‘outside the box’ thinking going on across Pennsylvania in an attempt to resolve budget issues, many of which were caused by Gov. Corbett’s proposed cuts to public education. For some, a four-day school week – cutting a day out of transportation, utilities, and food-service costs could be an answer. Such a schedule change might delight students but could make working parents cringe.
In Chester County, a school district is actually considering the four-day school week as a cost-saving measure. With a staggering budget deficit of $6 million if Corbett’s budget is passed, Coatesville Area School District is required to look for some creative outside-the-box cost-saving strategies. According to the Daily Local, the school district has determined that moving from a five-day school week to a four-day school week would save the district approximately $1.7 million.
Although this may seem like a novel idea, in reality there are more than 120 school districts across the country that host four-day school week programs. Twenty states, including California, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Colorado and Georgia, have some school districts that operate on a four-day school week. Additionally, Arkansas, Delaware, New Hampshire, Texas, Virginia and Washington have laws that permit four-day school week but currently have no schools that are scheduling this way.
According to the administration of Coatesville Area School District, to make up for the day lost in a four-day school week, the school day would need to be longer by about one hour and 20 minutes at the elementary school and the middle and high school would extend by 45 minutes. This plan would reduce the number of school days in a year from 180 to 154. By extending school hours and eliminating a day of classes each week, transportation and utilities would see significant cost-savings. Closer to home, the idea of a four-day school week was briefly discussed at a Great Valley School District meeting in February. Faced with a staggering budget shortfall, administrators and school board members struggled with ways to reduce expenses, including the shortening of the school week. It is my understanding that Great Valley is not giving serious consideration to this particular cost reduction strategy.
The increase in the length of the day might not necessarily involve academics, but could incorporate clubs, sports, tutoring from teachers. Some parents may not like the idea of a four-day week because it means that they would have to find another child care option for that extra day. Conversely, some parents may prefer the longer day as it could help with pick-up at the end of day. It occurs to me that a longer school day would lessen the ‘home alone’ time for children whose parents both work outside the home.
For many school districts, a four-day school week is about saving money. A school can save a great deal of money by dropping a day, especially on transportation, utilities and substitute teacher costs. Perhaps the option of a four-day week may be viable if the school district is faced with other options – like ending sports, mandatory furloughs for employees or renegotiating union contracts. The focus of younger children with an increased school day length is concerning. If money is saved, but minds, potential and futures are lost, what is gained in the end?
Question of the Day: Is a 4-Day School Week a Good Idea?