Brookings Institute research shows that the four-day school week model has grown in popularity over the past two decades. An analysis published shortly before the pandemic found at least 662 districts across two dozen states with four-day weeks. For many parents, families and teachers, it might sound like a dream come true. One less day of getting everyone up on time, preparing school lunches, car pooling…I mean the list goes on. But how rewarding is a four-day school week and is it something that could benefit the masses?
First, Let’s Talk Logistics
Typically, a four-day week involves increasing the length of the school day four days per week and “dropping” the fifth day. On average, days are about 50 minutes longer, coming in at approximately seven hours and 55 minutes. For many adults, this model has proven to reduce burnout. Some businesses even report improved productivity, morale and team culture. However, an emerging body of research suggests that schools and businesses may not share the same four-day ‘wins.’
Here, we describe the pros and cons of embracing a four-day school week.
PROS TO A FOUR-DAY SCHOOL WEEK
More time for extracurricular activities: With one extra day off per week, students have more time to engage in extracurricular activities such as sports, music, or volunteering.
Reduced absenteeism: A shorter school week may lead to reduced absenteeism as students have one day off to recover from illnesses or attend appointments, reducing the need to miss school days.
Cost savings: A four-day school week may save costs on transportation, energy, and staff salaries, as schools can reduce the number of days they need to operate.
Improved teacher morale: With one less day of teaching per week, teachers may feel less burnt out and more motivated to teach, leading to improved teacher morale.
Improved Mental Health: A weekly mental health day may keep students in a healthy frame of mind. It also teaches students to prioritize their mental health from an early age. Students could use this day to catch up on rest and/or sleep; recover from a stressful event that would keep them from engaging in class; consult with a mental health professional; and/or take preventative action to care of themselves.
CONS TO A FOUR-DAY WEEK
Longer school days: Schools may need to compensate for the lost day by extending the remaining school days, making them longer and more tiring for both students and teachers.
Decreased academic performance: Studies have shown that a four-day school week may negatively impact academic performance, particularly in math and reading, as students have fewer days in the classroom.
Childcare issues: Working parents may have difficulty arranging for childcare on the extra day off, leading to increased stress and disruption.
Difficulty scheduling extracurricular activities: With students and teachers having different schedules, it may be harder to schedule extracurricular activities that everyone can attend.
Difficulty managing multiple children with different schedules/needs: For parents that maybe have one child in high school, one in middle school, and a smaller one, it could be challenging to find ways to accommodate everyone's "day off." Even with childcare and extracurricular activities in place, it could feel overwhelming to parents, especially if they don't work from home or have a four-day week job.
As you can see, this isn't a black or white issue. It will require researchers conducting longitudinal studies before we can truly assess if a four-day school week is an effective model. Overall, a four-day school week has both benefits and drawbacks, and schools should carefully consider the potential impact on their students, teachers, and community before implementing this type of schedule. Does a four-day school week make sense for you and your family? Or do you prefer a traditional five-day week? We'd love to hear from you!