Some Nebraska schools are moving to a four-day school week, following the lead of at least six other school districts in the state.
Amid a challenging hiring and retention climate, some rural administrators are sweetening the pot by reducing a teacher’s work week while maintaining the same pay. The move also promises savings in energy and maintenance costs.
Parents, however, are fearful of increased childcare costs, loss of work income and diminished classroom time negatively impacting their children’s education – especially after students nationwide fell woefully behind during the pandemic.
The research on the long-term effects of a four-day school week is largely inconclusive, owing to the relatively small sample of study cohorts and the recency of the schedule’s adoption. But that hasn’t stopped districts from trying it.
As recently as 2019, at least 650 school districts in over 24 states in mostly rural areas had adopted the four-day week, a 600% increase over the two previous decades. That figure is estimated to be far higher now since the pandemic.
At least six Nebraska districts are on a four-day week currently. Banner County, Conestoga, Weeping Water, Minatare, Hay Springs, and Wynot. The state does not stipulate the number of days each week schools must offer instruction, just the number of instruction hours – 1,032 for elementary, and 1,080 for high school.
To meet the requirement, some districts simply extend each school day while others offer additional for-credit instruction to make up the difference.
Childcare tends to be the biggest question when districts consider a four-day week, said Jack Moles, executive director of the Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association.
“It ends up being a day that there are several babysitters around, because high school students don’t have class,” he said.
But those babysitters aren’t free, and parents are still on the hook to make arrangements.
In one large Missouri school district, parents were so upset that the school board enacted a four-day week despite their concerns, their Representative introduced a bill to require district voters also get a say.