Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and finally Friday. Most students around the world wake up early in the morning and go to school five days a week. Every Monday, students fear going into another school week and as the week progresses they begin counting the number of days left until the weekend. While five-day school weeks have been the most common system for a long time, four-day school weeks have increasingly gained popularity in recent decades and have even been implemented in some school districts. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 662 districts across 24 states were using the four-day week schedule, which is approximately 600% more districts than in 1999, and since the beginning of the pandemic, even more districts in rural areas have adopted this system. Even though a majority of schools in the country are still used to the ancient five-day week system, introducing the new, innovative four-day week system has a substantial number of potential benefits.
One of the main reasons why multiple school districts adopted the four-day school week system is that it increases financial savings. During many economic crises, four-day school weeks served as an efficient solution to shortage in budget for many schools. According to research by the Education Commision of States, four-day school weeks can make a maximum savings of 5.43% and an average savings of 0.4% to 2.5%. While these numbers may seem small to some people, they produce enough financial benefits to convince many school districts to implement the four-day school week system. In addition, four-day school weeks benefit students, parents and teachers financially as well by decreasing the transportation cost. Especially since Maclay is located in an area where pedestrians can’t reach and does not provide school buses, students and teachers rely on automobiles to come to school. If schools reduce their school week by one day, students, parents and teachers will face issues with transportation less frequently and save their transportation costs over many weeks.
Another significant benefit of four-day school weeks is improvement in student attendance. Since the pandemic, absenteeism rates have soared nationwide – from 10% to 24% in Connecticut, from 17% to 30% in Ohio, from 27% to 41% in New York City and from 22% to 40% in Las Vegas. Frequent absences are big issues because they often have a direct negative relationship with a student’s academic performance. There are a variety of reasons why students miss school, such as having a medical appointment, illness, family emergency or any other kinds of personal issue. While some types of absence could be out of control, four-day school weeks can reduce the absenteeism rate to a certain degree by allowing students and teachers to make appointments on the extra day off from school. This change is much needed particularly for athletes who miss classes regularly due to their sports games. If games are scheduled primarily on Friday, a non-school day in most schools with four-day weeks, this will prevent many student athletes from missing their classes and having to catch up afterwards. Since students’ attendance rates are closely linked to their academic performance, introducing the four-day week system will bring positive changes for many students.
Taking an extra day off enables students not only to avoid missing school, but also to spend their time more efficiently based on their schedule outside of school. Studies have found that students with four-day school weeks have more time to complete their homework because they have more flexibility compared to students with five-day school weeks. As a result, they have more time to spend with their family or friends on the weekends, engage in their hobbies like sports and get more hours of sleep. Increasing the time efficiency and having more free time is crucial for students’ mental health, which affects their overall physical and emotional condition, learning ability and concentration. Since mental health is key to students’ success, more schools should consider the use of the four-day week system.
While four-day school weeks have numerous advantages, they also have drawbacks. The most common of all is adding responsibilities to parents. A lot of parents, especially those of elementary and middle school students, who work five days a week rely on schools to take care of their children and provide meals for them. However, if students are no longer at school when parents have to go to work, parents would have to take a day off from work or pay someone else to take care of their kids because otherwise kids would not receive proper care by an adult. Moreover, shorter school weeks mean longer school hours, which might be an issue for younger students who are not able to get through longer school hours without getting tired. While it may not apply to every student, this could certainly damage performance for certain kids.
Nevertheless, four-day school weeks are worth being introduced because they tend to foster a more positive school environment compared to five-day school weeks. One recent study, for example, found that four-day school weeks reduce per-pupil bullying cases by around 39% and fighting incidents by around 31%. While bullying has been one of the most common and long-established issues on campus, most schools, if not all, have a clear solution to stop them. Still, solutions like four-day school weeks can be used to at least indirectly alleviate bullying or any other issues between students.
Considering the drawbacks for younger students, four-day school weeks might not work the best for elementary and middle school. However, four-day school weeks should be implemented for high school students, who are able to take care of themselves and utilize the innovative system to their advantage. By getting rid of Friday, which gives students and teachers three consecutive days off, four-day school weeks will allow students and teachers to reduce their transportation cost, increase the attendance rate and enhance their mental health.