A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A four day school week?

I've heard about this before. But not in schools.
Facing a crippling increase in fuel costs, some rural U.S. schools are mulling a solution born of the '70s oil crisis: a four-day week.

Cutting out one day of school has been the key to preserving educational programs and staff in parts of Kentucky, New Mexico and Minnesota, outweighing some parents' concerns about finding day-care for the day off.

"For rural school districts where buses may travel 100 miles round-trip each day, there certainly are transportation savings worth considering," said Marc Egan, the director of federal affairs at the National School Boards Association.

Egan said about 100 schools in as many as 16 states have already moved to a four-day school week, many to save money on transportation, heating and cooling.

Nevada's White Pine School District switched just one of its schools to a four-day week three years ago. Now, with energy costs soaring, four other schools in the district are following suit.

"We're looking at it district-wide with energy costs being at the forefront of the conversation," said Bob Dolezal, superintendent of Nevada's White Pine County School District, which is facing a 14 percent budget cut due to a shortfall in state funding.

MACCRAY Public Schools in Minnesota, which voted to switch to a four-day week in May, expects to shave 10 percent off transportation costs, which have risen unexpectedly in recent years as fuel costs have shot up.

"The savings for a four-day week just on the transportation alone were $65,000," said MACCRAY superintendent Greg Schmidt.

The plan initially did cause alarm among some parents, who were concerned about finding child-care, but most have managed to find place their kids in day care or with relatives, Schmidt said. In addition, MACCRAY plans to institute a child-care certification program for older students to offer day care for younger kids on the day off.

One of the pioneers of the four-day week, the Cimarron, New Mexico school district, is looking to cut energy costs by getting back to its roots.

Cimarron Public Schools moved a four-day week when energy prices shot up in the early 1970s, but has become more "complacent," letting the heating and cooling systems run even during the day off since the end of the OPEC oil embargo, Cimarron's superintendent James Gallegos said.

With soaring energy costs, that will no longer be the case: "As we start the next school year, it's going to be very minimal on the Fridays that we are off," Gallegos said.

Webster County School District in Kentucky switched to a four-day week four years ago under economic duress -- a state budget crisis left the school in limbo, leaving the district with the option of dropping school days or cutting staff and programs.

The district ended up saving tens of thousands of dollars in fuel and energy costs, helping to cut total costs by 3.5 to 4 percent, said James Kemp, the superintendent of the Webster County School District.

The shortened week at Webster also brought unexpected benefits such as improved attendance and a boost in student performance.

"If we were to go back to a five-day week, the school board and I would be run out of town," Kemp said.

When I was in college during a summer break, I worked at a job where I could work thirty hours a week in any way I wanted. So I worked three ten hour days. It was wonderfully liberating to have the ability to work but still have entire days to myself. I wonder how this impacts kids' abilities to cover material and handle homework, however. But, wow! This sounds tempting! And think of the gas we teachers would save not having to drive to work one day a week.

Fascinating. Hey, y'all remember when gas was $1.40 a gallon? Back before January 20, 2001? God, I love how a weak dollar caused by debt from overspending by "conservatives" and two "oil men" in the White House has turned out, don't you?

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At 7/27/08, 11:57 PM, Blogger Val said...

Definitely tempting. I do wonder how kids would react-both to the increased work load during the week and the extra day during the weekend.

I think I would love it though!

At 7/28/08, 12:05 AM, Blogger McSwain said...

Interesting thought--I used to work a 9/80 and loved it. Recently, but before I saw this article, I was discussing the possibility of a 4-day school week with someone. As an elementary school teacher, I can see 2 issues: #1--There's only so much math kids can digest in one school day, so I don't know how I'd get through the curriculum, but more important is #2--attention span. A longer school day? For most kids? I wouldn't want to be trying to keep them on task.

Also, the Fridays off would create a child care nightmare for some parents.

At 7/30/08, 4:56 PM, Blogger Lightly Seasoned said...

My sister is an RN and works this type of schedule. She loves it. I'm sure this isn't that much different from figuring out how to get block scheduling to work (although I've never taught on blocks).

I'd love the extra day. It would help tons with keeping up with grading AND rest. But, busing isn't a big budget item in my district: we're geographically quite small and parents are charged for it.

At 8/1/08, 8:10 PM, Blogger Mister Teacher said...

A local school district was proposing this around this time last year. I wrote a post with what I thought was an even BETTER suggestion...


I mean, why stop with 4 day??

At 8/18/08, 3:24 PM, Anonymous Watson said...

Think of the gas we can save? You must be a fantastic teacher.

At 8/20/08, 8:16 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

I'd say so. The best teachers are the ones who keep an eye on their home and the classroom as well, and thinking about what you pay for gas plays into that.


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