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Hey friends!

So you're either here because you're like, "WHAT?! There's such thing as a four-day school week?" or "I've heard of it but I want to know more!" Or maybe neither haha. Either way, I've been wanting to blog about this pretty much all year, but I've been waiting for a couple of reasons.

First. I've actually blogged about this before in this blog post (disclaimer: I was a blogging and teaching rookie so read it with a totally different lens).

Second. My current school is a charter school in a pretty large district. Our large district we're a part of is on a 4-day week. I actually applied for this job thinking this school was four-day (surprise! it wasn't haha). But I also really wanted to work at this school, and when I applied I was already working at a school that was  five days.

Third. My current school had been working on going to a 4-day week for the upcoming school year. Our school had a calendar committee that researched, surveyed, discussed, and then researched some more on the benefits of four-day school weeks. They pushed for it all year (I was on it for a brief stint, but went on maternity leave so I really can't take too much credit). Anyway, I was waiting to see if it would pass before I blogged about it.

IT PASSED a few weeks ago and I am pumped! But I am always shocked at the questions, concerns, and all around shock that comes with four-day school weeks and wanted to answer as many of those questions here.


So, a little background on four-day school weeks.

Four-day school weeks are actually pretty common in rural communities because of their ties to farming and families needing their children to help work on the farms an extra day. Some of those are old traditions that just never changed.

Rural communities also often have families that need to travel farther for school and the four-day week was implemented to help take a day of travel off for families, busses, and even teachers who traveled long-distances.

More recently, four-day school weeks have been becoming more and more common as schools need to cut costs and one day less at school can save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

And even more recently, rural (but not as rural as the past) have been going to four-day weeks to retain teachers. Smaller districts compete with city districts or small rural towns struggle to get teachers to remain in their districts because they can't compete with raises, benefits, etc. One way to try and retain those teachers is implementing a four-day week.


A little background on me with four-day school weeks

My first charter school that I taught at was a four-day school week, while the rest of the district was a five-day school week (with the exception of one other school in the district that was a public school that focused on math/science on Fridays. They were a four-day school week, while Fridays their school had a math and science center that all schools could visit and utilize).

Some things that might surprise you:
  1. We consistently had the second highest test scores in the district, and second only to (you guessed it) the other four-day school in the district.
  2. I worked at that four-day school for three years and never took a day off. Not because I was crazy, but because I could schedule anything I needed for Friday afternoons. Fridays are also the day most staff members tend to take their days in five day schools, because it's just easiest. I never had to do that. 
  3. Teachers still had to go to school on Fridays for 1/2 days. We worked 8:30 -12:30 on Fridays. I actually LOVED it. I got SO MUCH done. As a first year teacher, it was life-changing. Most 4-day schools don't do this, but ours did. 
  4. Now that I have taught in two different five day schools, I can tell you, without a doubt, that I had WAY more instructional time when I taught in a four-day school. 
    1. We had all PLC meetings, RtI meetings, staff meetings, and SpEd student annuals and staffings on Fridays. I NEVER had to get pulled out of my classroom for a meeting. I didn't even know that was a thing until I went to a five-day school. My first year in a five day school, I had almost 13 kids with IEPs, so that meant 13 hours that I was pulled out of my class just for those meetings. Don't even get me started on all the other stuff I got pulled out for. 
  1. Teachers never felt like they were trying to squeeze a bunch of curriculum into a shorter time. We often heard from other district teachers how they felt like they never had enough time, but we pretty much never felt that way. We obviously felt the crunch during testing, but nothing like I felt when I taught in a five-day school. 
  2. We actually were in school a normal length of time. We started in mid August and got out in mid May. The five days schools I've been at actually have longer school year calendars. My first four-day school went 8:00am-3:40pm. The school I teach at now will be 7:30-3:05 in elementary and 7:30-3:25 in the middle and high schools. 
Some things that might not surprise you: 
  1. We really didn't have that many behavior issues. There are other factors that could have been at play, but a lot of research and administrators will tell you that Fridays are the worst for behavior.
  2. We also had pretty good attendance. I never had kids that were gone all the time and I never knew about the concept of missing work for tons of absent kids, because it just didn't happen too often.
  3. Teacher and student burn out was far less of an issue then at five day schools. Teachers still moved away and we obviously had to fill positions, but we didn't have much teacher turnover. 

I'm just going to make this list of benefits as fast as possible. 
  1. Increased attendance (for students and teachers). 
  2. Better teacher morale.
  3. Better student morale. 
  4. Well rested students. 
  5. More time to work on homework. 
  6. More plan and prep time. 
  7. Less interrupted instructional time. 
  8. More consistent schedule every week (all our professional development days, teacher work days, meetings, etc. are all done on Fridays). We don't get many other holidays off, so you almost always have four-days of instructional teaching every single week. 
  9. Better teacher retention. 
  10. More money savings. This is often the biggest reason schools go to this four day week. It can be hundreds of thousand of dollars for larger schools districts with one less days of buses and utilities. 


Like I was saying in the beginning of this post, my current school was the only school in our district that wasn't a four-day school, so our calendar committee decided to push for it this year (for a variety of reasons). 

I may have been naive to think that everyone would love the idea of a 4-day school, but people are actually pretty against it at first. 

But here's a super crazy fact: In general, parents and families are about 50-50 when schools decide to try to go to a four-day. Half are for it and half are against it. BUT, after one year of being four-day schools, satisfactions surveys show that 90%-95% of families are satisfied with the switch. Basically, once you get people over the change, they will be satisfied, you just have to convict them to switch first haha. 

Anyway, here are the most often and questions and most often expressed concerns to the switch to four-day, along with the answers to those questions. Most of these answers are based off of research or 4-day school experience. 

Question One: What about families who work full time? What are they supposed to do on Fridays?

This is a question that so many families like to bring up. I get it. I really do, BUT (I am not trying to offend anyone-- just trying to speak facts here) school is not meant to be a daycare facility. Just because families work, doesn't mean they think of school like that, but we're not there just to offer free daycare. We're there to teach your kids. 

On a related note, most schools get out in the 2:30-4:00pm range, while most people who work full time don't get done at these times. They usually already have that figured out, and Friday becomes another one of those things to figure out. Also, most communities that implement four-day weeks work hard to come up with solutions for families that simply have no other alternatives. 

Question Two: How do you fit five days of curriculum into four days. 

Real talk. I HATE this question, because I think it shows SO MUCH about what is wrong with education and mandated curriculum programs and companies. 

We are not just supposed to cover as much as possible in a school year. That achieves NOTHING. Good teaching is good teaching. It's about going deeper, not wider. Decisions occasionally have to be made about what you will and won't teach, but in general, you don't really have to change much. 

You might have to get a little more creative. For example, when I taught 5th grade at the four-day school, I taught the measurement standards all year long during our math warm-up and the other four units as units throughout the year. 

Also, like I stated before, by having Fridays off, your instructional time is sacred, and you actually end up feeling like you have more. 

Question Three: Is this really best for kids?

Again, I kind of hate this question, because I think it's another one of those questions that show that people just don't understand or value teacher opinions. But YES, it is totally best for kids. They are well-rested, their teachers aren't burnt out, they have more time for homework, and all around school moral is better. 

I still see why big districts with large free and reduced lunch populations would struggle with a four-day school week, because of the concerns about kids eating. Again, larger districts that do this, often rally as a community to support those families. 

Question Four: Are the kids just going to have way more homework to compensate for the missed time?

Sorry, but I think if the answer to that was yes, then that would just be bad teaching. I might be biased because I feel pretty strongly about not giving homework, and I teach middle school ELA. I want my kids to read every night, and I encourage that, but the only type of homework that would get added on in a four-day week would be stuff we should be teaching or busy work and neither of those should be homework. So no, homework shouldn't increase. 

Question Five: If families don't want it at their school, why would the school still do it? 

Originally, I thought this was only an applicable question for our small school, but recently a large district in the Denver area went to a four-day school for a couple of reasons and many of the community members were upset. They felt that the school district hadn't consulted them, BUT I have to disagree. 

That same district had been trying for years to pass a bond for more money .The community had continually not voted to pass the bonds that would raise their taxes, thus continually underfunding the schools in their district. When the community won't support the needs of the school, then the schools have to do what they have to do in order to give students and teachers what they need. 
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