A rural Minnesota school district is attempting to keep its four-day school week, despite recent orders from state officials to transition to a five-day week, according to a recent article by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The Maynard-Clara City-Raymond school district, which serves students from three rural cities in western Minnesota, has relied on a four-day week for seven years to save costs amidst budget shortages. The Minnesota Department of Education recently ordered five districts, all of which are using a four-day week, to return to a five-day week by next fall. Although the Maynard-Clara City-Raymond district has saved money, state officials say there has not been enough academic improvement to justify keeping the schedule.
Nationwide, at least 120 school districts in 21 states use a four-day week, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The schedule is most common for small, rural districts because it can reduce costs, especially for transportation, which can be costly in districts that span large, isolated geographic areas. Some districts have said they also hope to increase student and staff morale by switching to a shorter week.
A 2009 report on 17 school districts in Montana that operate on a four-day school week found that although some communities were concerned about the length of the new school day, all districts saw a decline in student absenteeism, and 14 of the districts reported an improvement in teacher and student morale. Some critics of the four-day school week say that the expanded school day may be too long, especially for younger students, or children may regress during frequent long weekends away from school.
In Minnesota, the district is attempting to build a coalition with other rural districts that want to keep an alternative schedule, and may draft legislation to allow local control over school schedules.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.