More study needed on shortened school week

It is not exactly new to education but the four-day school week is getting more attention these days.

There is plenty to be cautious about with children’s education on the line. Or is it just the older generations that are more suspicious of a shortened school week? The concept, even though it is already in use in North Dakota, deserves ongoing scrutiny by the state to make certain students and parents aren’t being short-changed. Perhaps then more school districts would seriously consider making similar changes and saving taxpayers in the process.

Who knows, someday a four-day school week might be the norm.

The Minot Daily News recently reported that Alexander has adopted just such a four-day week, and with great success. That assessment is according to superintendent Leslie McDonald, who was interviewed by Minot Daily News reporter Andrea Johnson.

About 35 minutes have been added to each school day, which runs from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., Johnson wrote.

“It was tiring in the beginning,” McDonald acknowledged in the article, but she said the district built additional breaks into the schedule for preschoolers and kindergarteners.

Teachers have said they like the additional time built into the schedule because they have more time to answer questions from students and to finish lessons. At the elementary level, the extra time has meant that the district doesn’t have to cut short classes in robotics or physical education or art to focus on the mandated reading and mathematics instruction.

“Teachers collectively feel that they have become better teachers,” said McDonald.

There are also financial savings to the Alexander school district even though part of the school is still open on Friday for special enrichment programs.

Actually, having Friday’s open for such programs opens the door for all sorts of possibilities that students might benefit from – beyond what students in traditional 5-day weeks experience.

Ultimately it will be up to each school district to decide what length of week suits its students best. But going to four days is clearly worth a hard look by districts big and small.