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Introducing a 4-Day School Week—Everything You Need to Know

The field of education is full of trends. Different schools and teachers try different approaches, which are copied across the country and even the world. One of the most intriguing new trends in the education field is the idea of a 4-day school week. 

At first thought, the benefits seem like they would be obvious. Less time with students in school could cut down on hours for teachers (hopefully retaining teachers long term). Other obvious benefits include additional "free" time for students to pursue their interests, work on extracurricular activities, or even allow them time to work at a part-time job without burning out. 

Like many educational trends, however, there are some drawbacks, and the benefits may not be as significant. Still, the recent pandemic has caused schools and districts to get creative with their solutions. Below, we will address where 4-day school weeks are being used, how the system has worked, and its drawbacks for students, teachers, parents, and school districts.

How Does a 4-day School Week Impact Instructional Time?

This is often the first question when this concept is introduced. How do students "get back" that extra day of education? Well, the answer is straightforward, though not perfect. Districts add extra instructional time to the other four days of the week.

For most states, there is a minimum requirement of instructional time in a school week. This requirement applies to 4-day weeks as well, though 4-day districts typically have less instructional time overall than traditional 5-day districts. Another tactic used to make up for this missing time is offering free enrichment and tutoring activities on the non-school weekday.

Where are 4-day School Weeks Used Currently?

Four-day school weeks have been implemented in over 500 districts and over 20 states. The districts with 4-day school weeks are generally low-population, rural areas. While there are 4-day programs in several states, they are concentrated predominantly in three states. 

Over half of the current 4-day school weeks are in Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Montana. More than half of Colorado's districts use a 4-day school week schedule, though it is a small percentage of the total student population. As mentioned earlier, education often follows trends, so it makes sense that these districts have borrowed ideas from their neighbors.

Benefits of a 4-day School Week

There are many potential benefits of a 4-day school week. The first is cost; districts can cut transportation, staffing, and nutrition spending. Another major benefit is improved attendance. One of the biggest issues for school districts is hiring and retaining stellar teachers. A 4-day school week can help attract desirable candidates away from traditional 5-day school districts. A final benefit is a somewhat obvious one. With no school on Friday (or Monday), students can schedule doctor's appointments on those days and, therefore, not miss any important time in the classroom.

Shortcomings of a 4-day School Week

If a 4-day school week worked perfectly, the entire country would have adopted it by now. However, there are some drawbacks. With four days instead of five, school hours have to be expanded. This means longer days for students, which can be difficult for any student, particularly elementary schoolers. 

Another concern with the 4-day plan is childcare on the fifth day. While many 4-day school districts offer free childcare on the extra weekday, transportation is often not provided. Another drawback is for students who depend on free school lunches. These drawbacks may explain why this system has been used most effectively in rural areas with smaller numbers of students.

How do 4-day School Weeks Affect Parents, Teachers, and Districts?

A 4-day school week affects students, teachers, parents, and school districts. A major factor for many parents is childcare on the fifth weekday. Many schools offer free childcare these days. According to, most parents (84%) prefer a 4-day school week over the traditional five. The effects on teachers can be seen as well. Most teachers prefer a 4-day system. This leads to another benefit for districts; they can attract and keep skilled candidates on staff. found a 4-day week had other positive effects on:

  • Reduced parental stress
  • Improved student mental health
  • Improved school climate
  • Improved student attendance
  • Improved teacher attendance
  • Improved behavioral and emotional well-being

Final Thoughts

As you explore the pros and cons of introducing a 4-day school week, gather input from all demographics involved, including students. 

Written by David Anderson
Education World Contributor
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