Letter: Some thoughts on a four-day school week

I am writing in hopes that you will publish my thoughts on the school district’s proposal to change to a four-day week. I am totally opposed to the idea and have heard comments from others in the community that they are not in favor either. I understand there are two sides to this issue, but here are my views and reasons I oppose it.
Longer school days
Many out-of-town students are already gone at least 10 hours a day if they ride the bus. You would make it nearly 11. If you add time to the morning, it is too early (especially for young children) to get up. If you add time to the afternoon, this decreases the amount of time they (especially the older children) have for homework. They would have to go to bed earlier to be at school earlier or sacrifice sleep to get homework done, which is not healthy.
Time in classes
If you increase the school day by 40 minutes, this is only about five minutes per class at RJSHS. No teacher can add a sufficient amount of material in five minutes to compensate for the loss of a full academic day per week. Your proposal to add even three weeks to the school year will not compensate for the loss of approximately 32 Fridays. You will make up only 12 of those days. That’s 20 fewer days. Teachers are able to teach more in 20 full days than they would be able to with only five extra minutes every day in class. Younger students especially have a limited attention span, and a longer day would be that much more difficult for them. The teachers in the elementary school would not be able to add sufficient material in an extra 40 minutes a day to compensate for the loss of Fridays. Our schools are performing on an average standard according to School Accountability Reports. Let’s not risk falling to low.
Extracurricular activities
With longer school days, children would have to squeeze in time for their extra curricular activities, which are very important. This could include swimming lessons, Girl and Boy Scouts, 4-H, church youth groups and sports groups run by the recreation department. You would be requiring everyone involved in planning these activities to adjust the times to accommodate the new school schedule.
Added stress to family life
With less time per day for parents to help children with homework and prepare them for the next day, you would add an unnecessary burden.
Quality time with children
Stay-at-home parents would have more time with their children on Fridays, but the trade-off of less time Monday through Thursday is not worth it. Those four longer days would not constitute what I consider quality time. While quantity would be increased on Fridays only, quality during the week would not.
Childcare arrangements for working parents
Where will parents find childcare for a full day on Fridays when they are accustomed to only about an hour and a half five days a week? This would place children in daycare for nine hours every Friday.
With Fridays being proposed as your main sporting day, students can only handle so much practice time in one day. You have no control over their game schedules, so many of these would still be played during the week with the students missing more school to attend.
Use of schools
If money is a consideration you propose to use the school buildings for staff days two Fridays a month. You won’t save too much money closing the school two extra days a month or extending the school year a couple of weeks. If sports are to take place on Fridays, use of the building will not decrease whatsoever. If you extend the school year, you are increasing the number of days the schools are in use.
I understand the school district is in a financial mess and has been for quite some time. Decreasing the quality of our students’ education is not the answer to its financial problems. This is the last option that should be considered. The small amount of money you would save on busing and lunch-duty personnel on Fridays (which is the only financial gain I see in this) will not come close to compensating for the education quality you will lose.
Patty Collett

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