Staff Editorial: Four-Day School Week Promising But Presents Logistical Problems


Art by Rose Flores Rubio

The idea of a four day school week has been brought up many times in the Iowa City area. Superintendent Matt Degner presented two structures of the school year to the school board at a meeting in early March. Weeks would run Monday through Thursday, still have a break in the summer, and extended breaks throughout the year. This idea is good in theory, but presents many logistical challenges. 

As of March 24, 2022 there are four school districts in Iowa that operate under the four day school week model. Those would be the WACO, Cardinal, Mormon Trail, and Moulton-Udell school districts. However, it is difficult to compare ICCSD to any of those because they are all rural communities. The ICCSD has over 14,000 students, where the largest student population from the districts above is 1,000 students. However, if our district was able to implement the four day school week model, it would give a variety of benefits to both students and teachers. 

Firstly, the subtraction of one day in the week would almost certainly lead to increased morale, lower workloads, and more time to complete assignments. The goal of education should be to maximize learning, and these effects would likely contribute to that goal. 

A few school districts have found that a four-day week has improved attendance statistics. In Melstone, Montana, their school district found that within two years they had seen attendance increase. It improved as much as 20% with the implementation of four day school weeks. Not only that, but multiple districts have seen a positive impact on test scores and academic performance. A range of states, including Oregon and Georgia saw a gradual increase in graduation rates after changing the schedule. \

Additionally, the topic of mental health is one that our district knows about dearly. Many mental health issues stem from stress related to the lack of time and schoolwork overload, and a weekly three day weekend would allow more time for students to relax, spend time with friends, and complete the aforementioned schoolwork. 

A break during the week offers a reset for students and teachers alike. Teachers would have extra time to plan, but also more time for their personal lives. This could mean that teachers would have more time with their families, or take care of their mental health. 

However, the four-day school week presents several logistical challenges and potential hindrances at implementation. We believe the primary issue with the four day week plan is that the school district would have to figure out childcare for students during the extra day off. Because working parents would be included in the four-day week, they would still have to go to work on the free day, leaving their child without supervision. This challenge could revert the benefits mentioned before, and introduce new unwanted challenges to students and staff. Childcare is expensive. Most daycare centers in Iowa City cost $100-$300 a week. What would parents do if they couldn’t afford that? Some people might have to resort to leaving their children home alone during the work day, or with a family member. Still, those are inconvenient options and extra stress to domestic lives. 

There is a potential way around this problem. One plan the district could employ would be to only implement the four-day school week to middle school and high school. Leaving high schoolers and middle schoolers home alone is wildly different from having a kindergarten aged student or second grader left without a parent. Not only are the students more mature, they also most likely have means of transportation available to them. 

Another important factor is the food plan that the district offers. Many students rely on the breakfast that is served at school, as well as the lunch. Not only that, but because of the unprecedented times we continue to live in, the USDA made it so that this year was another year of free school lunches. This choice speaks for itself. Now more than ever, students need access to meals. If we lose a day of school, will that necessity still be provided? 

Shifting to this new schedule could be productive for our school system, but with the lack of information and proposals it is difficult to evaluate whether the obvious logistical problems could be solved in a way that works for families, teachers, and administrators. However, it is encouraging to see that our district is considering such radical changes with an open mind, showing that their overarching goal is to create the best system for everyone.