School & District Management

Weekend Update

By Denise Kersten Wills — August 12, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

It may be the most counterintuitive idea in education: Improve schools by lengthening weekends. But that’s the plan at West Grand School District in Kremmling, Colorado, a one-stoplight town about 100 miles west of Denver. This year, the district’s 520 students will attend classes for eight hours Monday through Thursday and have the option to take Fridays off.

Shortened weeks aren’t new, of course. High fuel, utility, and other costs have prompted cash-starved rural schools to shave days from the calendar since at least the late 1970s. But as the trend has grown—schools in at least 10 states now hold classes just four days a week, and nearly a third of Colorado’s districts have adopted the schedule— administrators have noticed some unexpected side benefits. Not only has academic achievement remained steady; schools also report better attendance and higher teacher morale. There are even isolated instances of student performance improving.

It’s gotten to the point that schools without financial crises are beginning to flirt with four-day weeks. In fact, West Grand superintendent Jeff Perry says, after figuring in the remedial and advanced tutoring West Grand will offer on Fridays, “it’s actually going to cost us a little more.”

If the success of other four-day districts is any indication, however, the switch may be well worth it. Neighboring East Grand School District—one of the first in the country to implement a four-day schedule—has raised its attendance rates to as high as 95 percent.

Nor did academics suffer. In one of the few studies on the academic impact of contracted weeks, the Colorado Department of Education compared test scores across the state and found no significant difference between schools with traditional versus condensed schedules, with one exception: “Test scores were much higher for middle schools on four-day weeks,” says Gary Sibigtroth, the assistant education commissioner.

Cookie Ready, a 2nd grade teacher who has worked in East Grand for 35 years, says most teachers at her school use Fridays to plan ahead. “It makes a huge difference,” she says. The uninterrupted time also allows educators to catch up on administrative work that would otherwise have to wait until the weekend—a factor that doesn’t go unnoticed by teacher recruits in Colorado and across the country.

“I can get teachers for whatever subject area I have,” says Michael Kay, principal of Merryville High School, a preK-12 school in rural Louisiana. Kay typically receives six to 12 applications for each job opening—a luxury he attributes to the shortened week. At his previous job, leading a five-day school about 20 miles away, he notes, he got only one to three applications for most teaching spots.

Not everyone is convinced that less is more, however. Little formal research has been done to determine three-day weekends’ effect on academic achievement, and some experts are skeptical. “Instructionally, it’s not very good from a theoretical point of view,” says Carol Merz, dean of the School of Education at the University of Puget Sound in Washington state.

Neither are the longer days a hit with parents of exhausted children or with those who have trouble rearranging their work schedules.

And as much as teachers like to have their weekends free, there is a price to pay, cautions Charles Arseneault, a teacher at four-day Custer High School in rural South Dakota. With seven one-hour periods daily and almost no extra days off, he says his school exceeds the state’s classroom-hour minimum by about 20 percent. He likes the schedule and says the students benefit—the longer class periods allow teachers to cover more material, especially in lab classes that require setting up and taking down projects—but the long days take a toll: “At the end of the day, I’m exhausted.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Science Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management School Districts Showcase What's Working to Improve Student Learning
School leaders from 13 districts shared strategies at a national summit by AASA, the School Superintendents Association.
3 min read
David Schuler, superintendent of High School District 214 near Chicago, Ill., speaks about college and career readiness during a presentation at AASA's first annual Learning 2025 Summit on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Washington, D.C. High School District 214 is one of 13 "lighthouse" districts that were recognized for innovative work to improve school systems.
David Schuler, superintendent of High School District 214 near Chicago, speaks about college and career readiness at a summit in Washington.
Libby Stanford/Education Week
School & District Management Schools Prefer Cheaper Ventilation Options to Curb COVID: Why They Should Consider Upgrading
Most schools are opening windows and hosting class outdoors rather than investing in costlier, more-effective measures.
2 min read
Students from PS 11 Elementary School participate in art projects and interactive activities, during an after-school outdoor program held in the High Line park in New York, NY, October 21, 2020.
Students from PS 11 Elementary School participate in art projects and interactive activities during an after-school outdoor program in New York City in 2020. Many schools are opting for outdoor classes and other-low cost measures to maintain healthy air quality during the pandemic.
Anthony Behar/Sipa via AP Images
School & District Management Hour by Busy Hour: What a Principal's Day Actually Looks Like
From the time they wake up until they set the alarm at night, school leaders juggle the routine, the unexpected, and the downright bizarre.
Left, Principal Michael C. Brown talks on a radio at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., on May 17, 2022. Right, Boone Elementary School principal Manuela Haberer directs students and parents in the pick-up line at the conclusion of the school day on May 19, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.
Left, Principal Michael C. Brown talks on a radio at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., on May 17, 2022. Right, Boone Elementary School principal Manuela Haberer directs students and parents in the pick-up line at the conclusion of the school day on May 19, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.
From left, Steve Ruark and Lisa Krantz for Education Week
School & District Management Photos What School Leadership Looks Like: A Day in the Life of a Principal
A look at a typical day for one elementary school principal in Texas and a high school principal in Maryland.
1 min read
Principal Michael C. Brown, from left, talks to seniors Brady D’Anthony, 18, and Sydney Dryden, 17, at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Principal Michael C. Brown, from left, talks to seniors Brady D’Anthony, 18, and Sydney Dryden, 17, at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Steve Ruark for Education Week