In the past few years, hundreds of schools around the country have decided to switch from the traditional five-day school week to a four-day school week, and while there are certainly some parents who support the change, others are extremely frustrated.
The new system of sending children to school for four longer school days and three days off is now in place at 900 of America’s 13,000 school districts, which is up from 662 in 2019. It’s become increasingly popular in rural areas of the country, where most families have one stay-at-home parent.
However, there are some families where both parents work full-time, and for them, this new system is not always ideal. In order to appeal to these parents, most school districts with truncated schedules offer childcare for the younger students on their day off at the school, but parents have to pay for the service. One mother from Independence, Missouri, explained, “I want my kids in an educational environment, and I don’t want to pay for somebody to babysit them.”
While many parents have complained about the adjustment to their family’s schedules, those who work in the schools argue that the four-day week is better for the students and teachers and that parents should find a way to make it work.
The superintendent of the school district of Independence, Missouri, who recently made the change, Dale Herl, explained to the press, “You have to go back and look, you know, what do parents do during the summertime? What do they do over, you know, spring break or Christmas break?”
It’s important to note that the reason Independence seems to be making headlines for its decision more so than other schools is that it is not in a rural or affluent area where families have at least one stay-at-home parent. In fact, of the 14,000 students within the district, 70% of the students are eligible for government-subsidized meals.
Independence, as well as dozens of other school districts that have changed to a four-day week, argue that in addition to being beneficial for students and teachers, it also minimizes their ever-growing budget. Though an analysis by the Economic Commission of the States noted that school districts will only save between 0.4%-⅖% annually by doing so.
While all of these reasons are certainly motivated to change to a four-day week, most schools are using this tactic in order to entice new and retain existing teachers. In Independence, Missouri, the school district has a tight budget and pays $15,000 less than its neighbors for incoming educators. However, with the four-day week, they’ve gained the recruiting advantage as teachers far prefer it to a five-day work week.
There’s no doubt that the decision to change the youth of America’s school schedule is an important one for students, parents, and teachers. And while the debate continues as to whether or not this is the right call, it seems that for thousands of families, this will be the new normal for now.