Editorial: Four-day school week

Four-day school weeks: Would the switch be worth it?

By: Annika Reschke

It is common knowledge that there is a teacher shortage across the country. In Nebraska only, there were 900 unfilled positions at the end of 2023. Also, student mental health continues to be a concern, especially after Covid-19. Many states still struggle to fund education, as the money the U.S. government provided to schools during the pandemic has begun to dwindle. Due to those problems, some schools have implemented a four-day school week, allowing teachers and students more time away from the school building and money to be used for expenditures other than daily costs. The hope is also that a four-day weekly schedule will boost staff and student attendance and teacher morale and decrease operating costs.  

One benefit of schools switching to a four-day school week from the usual five-day structure is that it would increase both staff and student attendance. When using four-day school weeks, students would not be as behind, and teachers would not miss as many lessons. This schedule allows schools to have another day for activities; they can move their athletics and other extracurriculars to their day off so games and events would not interfere with academics as they would in a normal schedule. Having a three-day weekend would allow time to relax and participate in extracurricular activities, which would lead to better attendance during the week. With teachers having an extra day off, they have time to plan appointments, home maintenance services, and family activities. Therefore, a four-day school week would benefit students and staff from not having to miss school days as often because they have an extra day to use.  

“As an administrator, I would be in favor of the four-day school week if it allowed for students to spend fewer evenings at activities during the week and allow for the teachers to spend less non-contracted time grading, meeting, and preparing for classes,” Sacred Heart Principal Jenny Dunn said. 

A shortened work week at school would not only help with attendance rates, but it would also help create a positive environment for teachers. The idea of having a three-day weekend would be very appealing to teachers, hopefully drawing more quality educators to the school system and creating an environment that makes teachers want to stay. Another benefit for educators is that the extra day off does not require them to follow a strict schedule and work with students; it gives them time to plan lessons, grade assignments, and attend professional development days. Overall, the four-day work week would give teachers more time to decompress after frantic days with students as well as have specific days set aside to plan, meet with other teachers, and participate in professional learning.  

 “Due to the shortage of educators, if a four-day week attracts more candidates to the field of education, I suspect more schools will move to this in the future,” Dunn said.  

In addition to educators, the shorter work week also gives advantages to the well-being of students. A charter school in Texas implemented the four-day school week to help alleviate stress in an age where emotional well-being is increasingly strained. The school has seen positive results and parents report that their children do not feel “burnt out and are excited to go back after the weekend.” Students utilize their extra day off by staying at home doing homework, playing sports, working, and doing other hobbies. Some may choose to get their homework done on the extra day off so they can truly enjoy their weekend. Not spending their time doing schoolwork on Saturday and Sunday, plus not having to pack their family and personal events into two days, means more time for students to recharge and leads to better mental health overall.  

However, data on the effects of the four-day school week is not conclusive. “Numerous school systems have moved to the four-day week, yet there is limited research to show that it is better than the five-day week,” Dunn said. 

As operating costs for school districts continue to increase, many schools have chosen a four-day school week to cut the cost and budget constraints. When reducing the number of school days, schools can save money on transportation, food, and energy costs. Schools would not have to pay classified staff like bus drivers, food service workers, and paraprofessionals. They would decrease the wear and tear on buses and eliminate fuel used on bus routes. With fewer people in the building, the cost of electricity, gas, and water would decrease as well. Because of the four-day school week, it would help schools decrease operating costs and assign that money for other expenditures that would directly benefit student learning. 

 “I don’t believe Sacred Heart has considered a four-day school week. I guess we would only consider this if Falls City Public moved to it due to the fact that we use the public-school bus system for our students,” Dunn said. “In addition, a four-day week may present hardships for parents who need childcare.” 

Therefore, while four-day school weeks have the potential to create environments where students and teachers want to be and free up money within their budgets, the educational trend has yet to catch on locally.