I had to do a lot of adapting with my move to college. I was experiencing a new state, a bigger town and more rigorous academics. One difficult adjustment that I wasn’t expecting, however, was having class five days of the week. Only getting two days in during the weekend killed me, and now, a semester and a half into my freshman year of college, I still haven’t completely adjusted.
From first grade until 12th grade, I experienced the four-day school week. My elementary, junior high and high schools all had class Monday through Thursday every week. Coming from someone who lived with this schedule for 12 years, here are some pros and cons to consider when it comes to the four-day school week —
Since an entire day is cut off the week, that extra time needs to be made up during the remaining four days. At my school, class went from 8:15 a.m. until 4:15 p.m. — about an hour or two longer than a typical five-day-week school’s day. An eight-hour day is pretty undesirable for elementary-aged kids. It can rapidly tucker them out. For high school kids, longer school days mean longer school nights. If a student is involved in sports, school gets out at 4:15 p.m., then practice goes until 6:30 p.m. After two or more hours of homework, every hour of the day is completely eaten up. Working after school is also an exhausting option for high schoolers with the long school days of the four-day week.
In addition to longer days, in order for my school to meet the required hours of class time while still allowing a decent amount of time off for summer, they were very stingy with vacation time throughout the year. Christmas break was often only one week. Spring break lasted two days. We never got holidays like Labor Day off, and we laughed at the thought of a snow day.
Another trouble with the four-day week is simply that the five-day week is firmly rooted in our culture. Schools’ entire schedules depend on having a full five days. Making hundreds of students, faculty members and families adjust to a completely new schedule of four days is a huge shift and a huge commitment.
Similarly, the rest of the world continues to operate on the five-day week. A common issue at my school, especially with elementary-aged kids, was that even though students operate on a four-day week, parents still have to work for five days. Typically their young kids were in need of childcare and older kids were left without supervision for the day.
One last problem with the four-day model is that it has only really been implemented by schools in rural areas. The effect that a four-day week could have on an urban school with thousands of students is potentially more negative. Imagine thousands of kids in a city being unsupervised for an entire day every week while their parents are at work. That would be a difficult problem to manage indeed.
As I mentioned before, the four-day model has been used mostly in rural schools — that is, schools that don’t receive a lot of funding. My school switched to four days in an effort to cut spending. One day less of class means one day less of heating the school, fueling buses, feeding students and paying certain staff members. For a school desperate for funding, cutting out a day of the week is a pretty reasonable option.
While an eight-hour day initially seems impossible for students, in reality, they aren’t too bad. In the four-day model, core classes (AKA the ones that require actual thinking) are set in the morning while students’ brains are still fresh. Electives (the ones that don’t demand as much focus) are usually after lunch. As someone who has lived through them, I can testify that the longer days are completely manageable for first-graders and seniors alike.
Another goal of a four-day week is to keep students from missing school for extracurriculars. Sports and other extracurricular events tend to be scheduled on Fridays. For schools with the four-day week, that means fewer absences for students who participate in those events.
For high-school students, while working after school is not recommended due to the long school days, another full day of the weekend is opened up for working. Students potentially have three days in every weekend to spend working. In rural farming areas, this is an especially enticing option.
When four-day weeks were first implemented, there were a lot of speculations about how terribly they were going to fail. However, studies have proven all of those skeptics wrong. Some concerns with the four-day schedule were that students would miss more school, be more lethargic and learn less, but the opposite has happened. In most schools that have implemented the four-day week schedule, morale boosted, attendance of teachers and students increased, participation in extracurricular activities soared, the drop-out rate decreased and students' test scores either stayed the same or improved. The studies show that with the four-day week, school districts may not have saved as much money as they had hoped, but they have saved nonetheless. So far, four-day weeks have been proven to be nothing but positive for schools.
Finally, my personal favorite reason for four-day weeks is the rest it offers students. My lifestyle was jarred in college when I was only given two days in a weekend. Sundays are taken up by church, which means that Saturdays are my only opportunities to sleep in. But they’re also my only opportunities to go out or to do something fun or to get homework done or to work. Do you see the dilemma? Too much pressure is put on Saturdays. There needs to be an extra day there. All throughout my growing up, I had that extra day. When it was taken away from me with college's five-day week, it wrecked me. And it still does. I just miss those free Fridays.
Overall, coming from someone who has lived with both four-day and five-day weeks, four-day weeks are actually the best. I'm skeptical about implementing the four-day week in urban areas, but, then again, people were skeptical about implementing it at all, and look how well it's turned out! So maybe it wouldn't hurt for a few bigger schools to try it out. The four-day trend hasn't spread into colleges and universities yet, but, personally, I don't see why higher education shouldn't try switching to shorter weeks as well. The benefits of the four-day school week vastly outnumber the disadvantages. Four days is the way to go.