At least 1,600 U.S. school districts consider shortening the school week to 4 days.
By: Brooke Bousley
Throughout the past year, the education administration and other faculty members have struggled to keep up with the demands of teaching. Many teachers have suffered from burnout due to the pressure associated with teaching demands during the pandemic. Currently, there is also a labor shortage in the educational field, which has reduced teaching staff and put additional stress on schools. In 2022, American schools suffered the loss of nearly 360,000 educators. With 6.8 percent of teaching staff missing, public schools have been struggling to keep up with the ongoing demands of education. In hopes of attracting teachers, many rural schools are moving to a four-day workweek in an attempt to compete with larger school districts that offer higher compensation, better benefits, and superior career prospects. In the US, there are over 800 different school districts that are moving to a four-day school week model. Nonetheless, the jury is still out on whether or not this is a positive move for schools and how it will impact teachers and students.
On the positive side, teachers and students will have a shorter school week which will prevent burnout and will provide reduced stress for all. The reduced hours in school will also provide a financial benefit to the schools as there will be some cost savings associated with fewer school days. This flexible work schedule will also help school districts to attract top teaching talent to their schools, which could improve the overall educational environment for students. This sounds like an ideal situation for students and teachers, right?
There are other things to consider concerning the four-day workweek schedule. In Texas, schools have to be open for a minimum of 75,600 minutes in a given school year, including lunch and recess, but school districts can decide how to achieve these requirements. If schools adopt a four-day school week, they would still have to achieve the minute requirements each year by reducing holiday vacation time, extending the school year, or making the school days longer in duration. It feels like school days are long enough with the current schedule and adding two hours per day for a four day school week would add more stress on students and teachers alike, which would likely result in a lower quality educational experience. While this potential four day school week would impact both teachers and students, it would also have an impact on parents and the quality of life for families. How would working families be able to pay and manage additional childcare for Fridays and the extended school hours during the Monday through Thursday window?
At the end of the day, this debate around the four day school week schedule should not center around a recruitment tactic to attract teachers to a specific school. Instead, this debate should be guided solely on what is best for the ongoing quality of education for the students as that is the primary purpose of schools. During the COVID-19 pandemic, students suffered from a lack of quality education which has set students back in their overall development. It is critical that instructional time must be maximized going forward to allow students to “catch up” on their learning goals. Schools must focus efforts on providing the optimal learning environments for students as the primary directive while also pursuing a workable school week format that meets the needs of teachers, parents, and families. In our modern world, our educational system must stay true to its core purpose, which is to provide a quality educational environment for all students to prepare them for successful careers as they move into adulthood.
Published 10/15/2022 – October Edition
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