Rural Schools Consider Switching to a 4-Day School Week

Image of blank notebook with pencil, small pencil sharpener, and shavings on the sheets. Used for Robert Peters blog about rural school considering switch to a 4-day school week.

Recently, rural schools across the country have begun switching to a 4-day school week. It’s unclear whether or not reducing the days students spend in school is beneficial in the long run; there hasn’t been enough time for schools using this type of school week to show a clear outcome. Right now, the schools making the switch are all rural schools located in the Midwest; 88 districts in Colorado, 43 in Idaho, 30 in Oregon, and nearly half of the districts in Montana. The administrators of these schools believe that this change will benefit the districts in various ways, but that hypothesis remains to be determined.

How does it work?

The plan for the 4-day school week looks like this: students spend slightly more time at school each day, which can be anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes, then they use Friday for more extracurricular or family activities. School districts originally thought that cutting a day from the school week would lead to lower costs, but that idea has been mostly disproven. A main reason districts are attempting the change is because they lack funding and attention from the federal and state governments. Rural areas are scrambling for ways to cut costs and a 4-day school week seems like the best solution. Many districts made the switch on a trial basis, but the community and students view it as a permanent change; it’ll be challenging to move back to a 5-day school week after everyone has adjusted to only four days.

What are the benefits?

Some studies have also shown positive results, particularly regarding children’s academic performance and cutting costs for some districts. Some school districts have seen significant changes regarding students’ scores. The main concern is saving money and many report that moving to a 4-day week allowed them to reach this goal. Another benefit of a 4-day school week comes from families having more time to spend with their children and also more time to run errands and take children to doctor’s appointments or on vacations, without pulling them out of school.

What are the drawbacks?
Though many positive studies exist, for some districts, there was not a noticeable difference in academic performance or financial savings for other schools. The change hasn’t necessarily been detrimental to these two factors, but it hurts the community in other ways. While most students and school employees like the idea of a 4-day school week, many parents are against it. Families with two working parents must find someone to watch their children on their new day off, which costs more money. Children may not have food or heat at home and they have one less day they can rely on a meal and warm environment, where they’re being nurtured. The switch works for a subset of families and can be extremely beneficial to them, but it’s also important that other families who don’t have the means to provide childcare of enrichment for their children on the new day off aren’t overlooked.