It’s a good thing the Johnson County School District Board of Trustees is pulling back the reins on a proposal to move to a four-day school week in Buffalo.
While shortening the school week appears to be a popular decision among parents, there isn’t strong evidence that such a change would improve grades – particularly in schools with similar enrollment.
“We see what parents want, but we also need to be mindful of what is best for students,” Trustee Dave Belus said during a work session last week.
We agree. Such a change should be grade driven, not convenience driven, and there are a lot of questions to answer before a decision is made.
Trustee Mary McCorkle expressed concern that moving to a four-day week would mean one less day of instruction in an already tight schedule. What would that mean for curriculum and academic performance?
That’s a question that remains at the national level. The National Education Association has advised school districts across the country to proceed with caution when considering the move because there is not sufficient data about the effects a shortened school week has on the quality of children’s education over the long term.
The catalyst behind the proposal appears to be extracurricular activities that require students to miss a lot of Fridays. The problem is that athletics should never dictate academics. And Trustee Margo Sabec said the district would be one of the first 3A schools in the state to move to a four-day week, which means that scheduling activities would continue to be an issue.
While the district is likely to see some cost savings in a four-day week, the savings will be negligible. A report from the Education Commission of the States looked at six school districts and found that switching to a four-day schedule saved them between 0.4 and 2.5 percent. Most of the district’s costs are fixed and would remain despite a shorter week.
Right now, volunteers with Friends Feeding Friends pack 120 weekend meals for food insecure children in our county. These are children who don’t have access to food at home. What would one less day at school mean for these children?
Shortening the school week would also impact after-school childcare services like the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Horns and the Buffalo Children’s Center. Are these organizations equipped to take children an extra day? Would such a move mean these organizations have to request more public funds?
Such a significant change brings with it a multitude of questions, and moving too fast could have serious repercussions. Receiving a quality education is not only something we should want for our children, it’s something they deserve.
The district is right to take time on this. It’s too important not to.