2. September 2008 09:06

Four-Day School Week

by Dr. Rick
Fuel prices strike again! According to an article in Time Magazine the other week, the students of Caldwell Parish, Louisiana, will be going to school for four days a week instead of five this school year. The decision to cut a day from the kids’ schedule comes from a necessity to save money on diesel fuel, which runs the school buses.

Other school systems are cutting back on bus routes, field trips, and extracurricular activities that require transporting students from one place to another. Some administrators say this will save a lot of money. “Penny wise and pound foolish” comes to mind.

Other administrators say it’s actually good for kids and teachers. Oh? I haven’t seen any studies, but I’m skeptical. The research I’ve seen over the years seems to say that the more kids are in school, the better they do. Common sense.

Here we go again! Haven’t we learned?

I hate to start sentences with “I remember when,” but I remember when we went through this before, during the original oil crises of the 1970s. The school system where I was teaching instituted an “Energy Break” during the month of February. We closed schools to save money on heating hundreds of buildings and thousands of school buses. Everyone was interested in saving fuel. Advertisements for cars touted gas mileage, just as breathlessly as they do now. (Look at car ads from the ‘70s and see how little has changed.) Some people saved energy by jetting to Florida to swim and to Colorado to ski. Energy Week extended years after the crisis, even as we became complacent. What gas crisis?

It was nice to have the week off during the winter doldrums, but I still wonder how much educational benefit it had. Schooling is supposed to be all about the kids, remember?

Count me in the camp of those who believe our kids go to school too few days already. Is cutting a day off the school week really the most creative solution we can come up with? Contrast our school laws – 180 days in most states – with other major countries’ and guess who almost always comes up last?

Up next, I’ll cover tips to make sure kids don’t see a 4 day school week as vacation from learning…

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About Dr. Rick

Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., has nearly forty years of education experience, in both the public and private sectors, including classroom teaching, administration and more than a decade with Sylvan Learning. 

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