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A look at four-day schools around the nation

Article Date: 
4 October, 2013 (All day)

While administrators in the Morgan County School District have heard residents offer a four-day school week as a solution to their budgetary woes, other schools in the nation have already tried it with mixed results. 
• Idaho - According to a 2006 Associated Press article, many Idaho schools are experimenting with a switch to a four-day week.  The Soda Springs School District in Idaho saw a savings between $130,000 and $200,000 after switching to a four-day week, depending on the weather.  Marsh Valley High School in Idaho switched in 2005 and has seen attendance go up.  After switching in 2004, Bear Lake High in Idaho is seeing students show up fresh and ready to learn. 
Shelley School District No. 60 in Idaho tried the shorter week in the early 1990s, but ultimately switched back and had to issue a levy to balance their budget.  They saw a positive attitude adjustment in students, but said the move saved very little money. 
• Colorado - In Garfield School District No. Re-2 in Colorado, where most travel for sporting events happened on Fridays, students were missing full days of school due to athletic events.  The district switched to a four-day week in 2012.  In the rural farming community, the local Chamber of Commerce developed an internship program for high school students on their day off, according to a 2012 U.S. News report.
East Grand School District in Granby, Colo., switched to the four-day week in 1983 and saved $206,000 in their $5.5 million budget.
• New Mexico - Animas Public Schools in rural New Mexico switched to the four-day school week in 1994 to combat the “Friday football flu” bug, namely the high cost of travel for athletic events.  While half the student body in a district with 600 students was traveling to an away game, the remainder was losing productivity, according to a March 1999 article in the School Administrator, a School Superintendents Association publication.  Four years after the switch, parental approval was at 80 percent.   But the district had to make accommodations to get that support, including introducing a breakfast program, allowing frequent rest periods, scheduling rigorous classes in the mornings, and reducing staff sick leave.
• Oregon - The Oakridge School District in Lane County, Oregon, switched in 2009 and has since seen higher test scores, less absenteeism among both students and teachers, fewer discipline problems, more family time, improved building maintenance and even increased teacher morale.  According to a February Register-Guard newspaper article, administrators there say such changes become more evident after trying the new schedule for at least two years. However, cost savings didn’t add up like expected.  
With 3,000 students, the school district in Coos Bay, Oregon, is one of the largest districts in the state to try the shortened schedule.  The switch unleashed community backlash, but district administrators say students are benefitting academically.  However, a majority of the 124 staff members indicated in a survey they would rather have the old five-day schedule back, according to a January article published in The Coos Bay World newspaper.
Harrisburg School District in Oregon switched in 2011 and estimates a savings of $141,000 the first year, half of which came at the expense of shrinking classified employees’ paychecks.  Another 24 percent of the savings came from less reliance on substitutes because of better teacher attendance.
Families did not like the switch at the Redmond School District in Central Oregon when the district faced a $5 million budgetary shortfall in 2009.  Teachers in the district with 7,000 students felt overwhelmed when they lost a preparation period during the day and classified employees “got the short end of the stick.”  The district superintendent said the cost savings weren’t worth the sacrifice.
The Cove School District in eastern Oregon has been on a condensed school week for decades.  While sports schedules were the main reason for the initial switch, district officials say class time is more productive.    There, school begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. and officials make an effort to wrap up after-school activities by 8 p.m.
• Georgia
With 4,000 students in seven schools in 2009, the school district in Peach County, Georgia, was looking for a way to fill a $1 million budget shortfall.  Without moving to the schedule, the district would have had to lay off 39 teachers.  Test scores, attendance and graduation rates went up.  Disciplinary issues decreased by 40 percent.  The first year alone, the move saved $400,000.  Substitute costs were down 76 percent, utility costs slashed 8 percent, while transportation costs dropped 35 percent.
The Chattooga County School District in Georgia reported an $800,000 savings after implementing the four-day week in 2010.  Most of the savings came in busing and salary costs to the district with 2,660 students, one high school and six other schools.  According to a 2012 Chattanooga Times Free Press newspaper article, teacher absences decreased 28 percent, students absences fell 32 percent, discipline write-ups for high schoolers declined 73 percent, test scores improved, and graduation rates increased.
Catoosa County Schools in Georgia switched to 166 instructional days in 2011 mainly to complete tornado recovery construction on their schools.  According to a 2012 Times Free Press newspaper article, that meant school started after Labor Day and saved an estimated $140,000 in fuel and utilities.
• Hawaii - In 2010, Hawaii schools decided to let students off every other Friday to save money.  It is the state with the shortest school year in the country with 163 instructional days.
• Missouri - In the Lathrop School District of Clinton County, Missouri, ACT scores are the best they’ve been in 10 years, according to an August article in The Kansas City Star.  The district was the first in Missouri to switch to the four-day schedule in 2010.
The Miami R-1 School District in Bates County, Missouri, didn’t make the switch from the “old five to the new four” this school year for financial reasons.  Instead, it was to improve teachers, giving them more time for professional development and training.  And better teachers mean better students, district officials there say.