I strongly suggest the Johnson County School District move with great caution in its consideration of adopting a four-day school week.
There have been anecdotal reports of improved test scores and better graduation rates as a result of going to the four-day week. I found no long-term data supporting this claim. I did find that in Montana there is empirical evidence showing schools made initial improvements on test scores, or at least held steady, for the first couple of years after going to a four-day week. But according to the same study, after that “they plummeted.”
In very small schools where the majority of students may be involved regularly in outside activities on Fridays, there is more reason to consider a four-day week. However, in a school where most of the student body is in attendance even on activity days, the argument for a shorter week seems to support the needs of extracurricular activities rather than those of the academic program.
Adopting a longer day can actually negatively impact students who want to participate in extracurricular activities. The average school day is approximately 6.7 hours long. Adding another 80 minutes (20 percent longer) makes it an eight-hour day. Add in two hours of practice time, homework and a dab of family time and we have a 12- to 13-hour day.
A study at the University of Virginia reported that teaching fewer and longer days didn’t result in coverage of material equal to that found in the five-day week. This, they hypothesized, resulted in lower scores on the ACT, SAT and AP examinations in the districts studied.
I suspect there are students depending on school food service for a good portion of their nutritional needs. Eliminating one day of school food service may put greater impact on the Bread of Life Food Pantry and create greater food insecurity among community children.
Since many parents work a five-day week, are there enough daycare providers available to absorb the greater number of students needing care during a weekday? What would be the impact on a community’s health, safety and recreation infrastructure if children weren’t in school?
These are some issues that I believe need to be considered before such a monumental decision is made. I hope the JCSD parents, students and board will all take the time needed to address these considerations fully.