A while back I wrote a post about schools transitioning to a four-day school week. I tried to stay very neutral and simply line out the pros and cons of both 5 and 4-day school weeks. However, at the time I wrote the post, it wasn’t something even on my radar to worry about! It was purely just information I had researched. Our schools were doing the more typical 5-day school weeks. Then we moved to Idaho and everything changed. The school my oldest attends, as well as most schools in the state of Idaho, have transitioned to a 4-day school week. Now that we’ve experienced both, I have more opinionated thoughts and feelings on the pros and cons.
If you’re looking for me to choose one side or the other- either 4-day school weeks or 5 days, then you’ve come to the wrong place. After experiencing both, I honestly cannot choose between the two. Both of them come with benefits and downsides.
One concern I have with a four-day school week is the longer school days. Elementary school starts at 7:45 am and doesn’t get out until 3:45 pm. An 8-hour school day is long for those littles! Districts are required to meet a minimum requirement of school hours in a school year, so to make up for those missed hours by not going to school one day of the week, the school days and sometimes the school calendar year become longer and more stretched out to make up for those hours.
This can be concerning for two big reasons I’ve personally found. First, meals. With school starting early in the morning, breakfast is naturally around 6:45- 7 am for us. My daughter (in kindergarten) then eats lunch at 10:45 am. Technically, the school is not expected to provide any other food besides optional breakfast for kids that need it, and lunch. So if they are not fed again, these kids go from 10:45 am until 3:45 pm without food. Yes, I know, food is a very privileged thing in a perpetual time of food scarcity. However, when little brains are working so hard on learning and growing, they need more. Luckily, most teachers in our school allow an afternoon snack, provided by the parents on an alternating schedule. But what about those schools or classrooms that aren’t providing extra food for those hours between lunch and going home?
The next concern is for the older grades when it comes to after-school activities. If school is getting out close to 4 pm, then sports and arts and other extracurriculars start their practices after school is out. Our local high school has track practice from 4-6 pm. Once track practice is over, the kids go home and eat, work on homework, and accomplish any other household tasks they may have. Then they need a good night’s rest so they can be up around 6:30 am for school the next day. It makes for such long days when extra activities are considered! This isn’t even bringing in the factor that many high school students have part-time jobs, too!
However, when schools are on a 4-day school week schedule, they have one full day off of school and any extracurriculars can take up the space of that day. This is typically Fridays for most 4-day week schools. That means extra-long practices, tournaments, games, events and more can happen on Fridays when students are out of school, instead of cramming it all in on Friday evening/ Saturday.
There’s also the bonus that even if students aren’t in additional school activities, there is space and time for family events and trips with an extra long weekend. We’ve enjoyed trips to the zoo and many local state parks because we don’t have to worry about attending school on Fridays.
And in the same breath, there are also parents that have the burden of worrying about childcare on Fridays because they are still working parents and need a safe space for their kids to go to when they are out of school but the parents are still working.
There are so many more thoughts and pros and cons I could add to this post, but it’s getting long-winded and I’m not here to bore you. When asked to choose between 4 or 5-day school weeks, I truly could not give you a straight answer. It’s such a double-edged sword! In some ways, I think either is the best and only way to do school! And in other ways, I think both are the wrong answer and make it harder than it’s worth.
What are your thoughts? What other pros and cons have you seen from a 4 or 5-day school week? What are your kids on, and what would your preference be?