Editor’s Column: School’s back in session, but is the four-day week hurting us?

When a topic randomly pops up in conversation twice in the space of a few days, it makes me wonder if there’s more to think about. This week it’s the concept of the four-day school week.

I remember the discussion and debate the last time our districts decided to go to a four-day week as a way to conserve an ever-dwindling supply of funds.

Anecdotally, my third and fourth children attended four-day schools in high school and suffered no apparent adverse effects. I trust our school officials know whether test scores have changed much since every weekend became a three-day weekend. But what if our teachers and our kids are making up for that missing day because they’re amazing, and the effects are being felt elsewhere in our communities?

Meeker trustee Wendy Gutierrez told the town board Tuesday that in conversations with representatives from the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), they emphasized the importance of having a five-day school week for attracting new industry and business to a community.

But why would having a four-day school week be detrimental to economic development? After all, it gives more time for family activities, more time for outdoor recreation, more time to enjoy the amenities we’re spending money to market. Right?

Or does having a three-day weekend every week make it convenient for families to leave town for shopping, entertainment and all those other activities that drive sales tax dollars away from home?

Since most working adults work five-day weeks, finding and paying for childcare for that fifth day might be the death knell for someone considering moving here. That’s especially true in a community where childcare opportunities are limited, or for parents of grade school kids too old for traditional daycare services but not old enough to stay home alone.

For folks who went to school Monday through Friday themselves, the idea that a child can get the same quality and quantity of education in four days may raise eyebrows, and engender a little resentment.

Any or all of those reasons might be the deciding factor in whether a new business or new worker relocates to a community, no matter how good the schools may be.

As former Meeker mayor Gus Halandras asked me last week, how can we support a bond measure to build a new school when our schools lack the funding to support a traditional five-day school week? If education is the “eggs” and the building is the “basket,” which should we be focused on first?

What do you think? We’ll post a new non-scientific opinion poll on our website this week. Share your thoughts.

By Niki Turner