Thank Goodness it’s Thursday

As Millard temporarily shifs to four-day weeks, the effects of this plan come into question

You reluctantly open your eyes and get out of bed. The sun’s bright rays blind your eyes. You glance at the time on your phone and realize that it’s 10:00 AM! You run into your parents’ room to find out what went wrong and realize they’ve gone to work. No, you didn’t pull a Peter Parker and erase yourself from the world’s collective memory. Your parents just forgot to remind you that Friday was an e-learning day.

As the Omicron variant continues to wreak havoc on students and teachers alike, districts around the state, including Millard, have made the decision to temporarily shift to four-day weeks. 

Superintendent Dr. Jim Sutfin explained his decision in a January 11th, 2022 email to district parents and teachers, saying, “This [shift] will ease the building pressure on our system and give students and staff who do contract the virus a chance to recover and come back to school with fewer missed days.” 

However, schools across the nation have begun implementing this system for a myriad of reasons besides the pandemic, such as saving funds and increasing teacher perks. And while a four-day school week is working for Millard right now and surely has some benefits, it is not a permanent solution and will ultimately be counterproductive.

There are many benefits for students in districts that utilize a four-day school week system. A research study conducted by the Robert Wood Foundation found that secondary school students in districts with four-day weeks got significantly more hours of sleep and also were very less tired on average. They found that this correlated with higher student engagement during days with school. The study also found that the shortened week also allows them to create a less stressful learning environment for teachers and their students, which improves relationships between them. 

But while four-day weeks may seem like the perfect option for everyone, there are significant drawbacks for students, parents, and teachers.

Four-day school weeks have days that are nearly an hour longer than regular school weeks to make up for lost time on the extra day off. This could not only be tiring for students but also pose a considerable challenge for parents. Additionally, with an extra day off, it can be a struggle for parents to find childcare or to take care of their children for the day. 

According to a 2019 University of Oregon study, this gap in four-day weeks also has an overwhelmingly negative impact on students’ academic achievements and performances.

The study reports that these negative effects disproportionately harm already disadvantaged groups, such as low-income families, minority students, and special needs children. Without access to school, they often lose necessary school-provided aid, such as free breakfast and lunch.

Teachers across the country also report that four-day weeks make their jobs more difficult. They say that the large gap between Thursday and Monday creates a disconnect for their students and makes it extremely difficult for them to truly teach their students.

 Joy Hofmeister, state superintendent of Oklahoma, explains, “There is clearly a saturation point by lengthening the school day, where you are going to exhaust students, and then they have three days to forget what they learned before they come back and revisit what is being taught. Frankly, I think it’s a short-term, promotional tactic to attract teachers at the expense of kids.”

And while four-day weeks can also provide more free time to kids, it also has been shown to lead to a drastic increase in juvenile crime. According to a 2017 CPSU (California Polytechnic State University) study, districts that implemented four-day week schedules experienced a nearly 20% increase in student crime, on average.

Lastly, specifically within Millard, the e-learning days that are meant to substitute for regular school days do not provide students with the in-person instruction they need. Therefore, they cannot cannot be permanent replacements for normal in-person school days with direct interaction.

So, while four-day weeks may seem like a great opportunity for everyone, they ultimately are not the paradise they seem and could potentially exacerbate previously existing problems in school districts. Implementing four-day weeks is a better decision for rural districts that need more flexibility for their students and teachers, but overall, four-day weeks are not the best option for many districts, including Millard.