More School Districts Consider 4-Day Week

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As more school districts consider switching to four-day school weeks to save money, officials with the Boundary County School District in north Idaho say the shorter week has been working for them.

Numbers from the National School Board Association show that about 100 districts in 17 states are operating on shortened weeks, The Spokesman-Review reported.

The Boundary County district adopted the shortened week in 2005, and district officials say they've saved about $108,000 a year through decreased transportation costs and food services, lower staff expenses and fewer substitute teachers.

A district survey of parents showed a majority of respondents favored continuing the four-day week, with 80 percent saying they believed their children were getting an adequate education.

"I think most kids here wouldn't like it if we went back," said 16-year-old Kendra Fisher, a sophomore at Bonners Ferry High School. "I'd rather go an hour more per day to get an extra day off."

But Anna Prentice, whose daughter just finished kindergarten, said parents' feelings about the schedule are "a split decision up here," despite the survey results.

"As a parent with older kids, I love it, but if I had younger kids, I'd hate it," said Bonners Ferry resident Barb Aubrey. "It's too long of a day."

That's a common concern, according to an Idaho Board of Education study. But the top concern is child care, according to the study: Some parents prefer to have kids in child care an hour or so a day, instead of a full day once a week.

Bonners Ferry Middle School opens on Friday to offer child care for a small fee.

But Ingrid Pavia, an opponent of the four-day week, says even discounted child care can be difficult for a family to afford.

"The money for day care takes its toll on people," Pavia said, with parents who may have already seen reduced work hours forced to get two jobs to cover the expense.

The longer days also mean that kids who don't take the bus have to walk home in the dark during part of the school year, she said.

Boundary County district Superintendent Don Bartling said the shortened week has improved school attendance, which translates to more money because enrollment numbers are consistent throughout the year.

"Parents do errands with their children on Friday — haircuts, doctors appointments and shopping," he said.

Those surveyed said other positive aspects of the four-day week are a decrease in teacher absences, more uninterrupted teaching time and a decline in dropout rates. Also, the four-day schedule has not affected students' test scores.

More schools in the Pacific Northwest could be making the change. A new law in Washington, signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire last month, will allow flexible school schedules in five pilot districts. The districts must have fewer than 500 students each, but state Rep. Dave Quall, D-Mount Vernon and chairman of the House Education Committee, said if the districts show success lawmakers could expand the option to other districts.

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