To the Editor:
I read with vested interest Paul Hill’s essay on the four-day week (Beware the Four-Day School-Week Trap,” July 19, 2017). While his points are valid, he misses several reasons why rural school districts are opting for only teaching four days.
The Lincoln County school district, where I am a principal, switched to a four-day week in the 2009-10 school year. The author was correct in some regards. Paraprofessionals received fewer hours and lunch wasn’t served on Fridays, among other issues. The financial savings have been not as significant as we had hoped.
Where we have seen the bigger savings is in substitute teachers, as we now encourage our teachers to schedule doctor’s visits and other appointments on Fridays, when school is not in session.
The biggest advantage, however, can’t be measured just in dollars: Athletics had a major impact on our rural district during a five-day week. When students have games on Fridays and have to travel distances, they must miss school and so must some of their teachers. Our nearest competitor, for example, is two hours away. With three sports in every season, it is often difficult to find substitutes on Fridays. In a school where there are only a couple hundred students, half of whom participate in athletics, there may only be 100 students in the school on any given game day. Those students often receive only busywork or watch a movie in class. Education is simply not happening. To that end, many students don’t even come to school. Where are they? Heaven only knows. Parents, who see the day as a waste, often excuse them.
If sports are scheduled only on Fridays when school is not in session, however, it cuts down on the call for substitute teachers and wasted class time.
Since switching over to a four-day school week, scores on standardized tests have not gone down in our district. But to be fair, they also haven’t improved.
C. Pete Peterson
Panaca Elementary School
A version of this article appeared in the September 06, 2017 edition of Education Week as Four-Day Week Has Real Benefits