A troubling contagion: The rural 4-day school week

Paul T. Hill and Georgia Heyward:

The first few localities to adopt the four-day school week hoped to save money on transportation, heating, janitorial, and clerical costs. The idea was to add roughly 30 to 90 minutes to each day that students are in school, then on the fifth day (usually Friday) to assign projects and encourage parent and community groups to organize study halls and enrichment activities.

However, savings have been elusive because so many costs—most importantly teacher salaries and equipment leases—are fixed. Even on days off, sports teams use buses and drivers for away games. Savings must come from expendables (for example, fuel for buses and heating, food for student lunches, and pay for hourly employees). There are also offsetting cost increases. School buildings must be kept open longer four days each week and on the fifth day for teacher meetings. Students who spend 90 minutes more per day in school need afternoon snacks.