Washington, DC - Schools across the country are opting to give teachers and students a day off on Fridays. It’s a way to save money, they say. According to the National Conference of State Legislators “approximately 560 districts in 25 states have one or more schools on a four-day schedule.”
Teachers and stay at home moms seem to like the trend but households where both parents need to work to make ends meet, it poses difficulties. “Families with children too young to stay at home alone will have the added expense of daycare,” points out Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens.
Weber says that in addition many low-income parents rely on subsidized school breakfasts and lunches and that having to feed their kids an extra day a week can pose a problem. The Department of Agriculture says more than half of the nation’s high-poverty schools offer breakfasts and lunches to students at no cost.
Meanwhile, there’s evidence to suggest that the savings for school districts that adopt shorter school schedules are minimal at best.
Paul Hill, a Research Professor at the University of Washington Bothell, is an expert in the field of public education. In an interview published in The Atlantic he was asked why school superintendents, if they know the savings may not be significant, elect to shut down on Fridays.
His response: “They hope to save money even if the odds are low. But there are two other reasons people go to it: at least initially, I think superintendents were enthusiastically thinking they could find a way to get more time for teachers to collaborate and maybe actually improve instruction. But the other was that teachers and families with stay-at-home moms and so on were all pretty glad to have that one day extra on the weekend where they could do things like take their kids to the doctor. So it was a combination of hope for academic benefits and real family and quality-of-life benefits.”
Weber says it would appear that the benefits of the four-day school week accrue principally to stay-at-home parents and teachers. “They would not outweigh the disadvantages for students and households where both parents work. Consider also the fact that the remaining school days would be longer under such a revised schedule and could prove to be difficult, especially for younger students.”