Four-Day School Week A Lousy Idea

I’d expect our leading educators would be smarter than a fifth-grader. Looks like I’m way off base.
One of their more bizarre school-financing suggestions is to consider scheduling classes only four days a week, and adding one or two hours to the surviving school days.
It’s a lousy idea that should be put to rest. Our county school board should focus its creative cost adjustments elsewhere.
Proponents of the four-day week believe they may have found some $600,000 in annual savings by not having to open schools, air-condition and clean them, feed their students or run fuel-guzzling school buses five days a week.
They point out that many rural school districts in a dozen different states have already tried out the four-day week with, generally, positive academic results.
Sure, but the reasoning is about as sound as comparing apples and pears. Most of the four-day school districts have around 1,000 students each. Hernando County has to educate over 20,000 students.
Thus far, Florida has been funding each Hernando pupil to the tune of an average $6,800 a year. After the statewide tax revolt earlier this year, Tallahassee will subsidize each student about $100 less a year. Cutting a day of classes looks like an all-too easy mark.
That’s until you think about it for a while. When did you ever see children sit still for as much as 8 to 10 hours at a stretch? When are they going to find the time for either routine homework or more time-consuming special school projects?
What happens to extracurricular football practices? How are they going to hold down after-school jobs, which many rely on for future college financing?
Kids are naturally full of excess energy. Just about the only time they are quiet is when they are asleep. But, sleep would be an even more precious commodity with a four-day school week. Growing children need a healthy 8 to 10 hours of shut-eye most every night.
With a four-day week, many students will have to catch the school bus at an unholy 5 to 6 a.m. and not return home until, maybe, 7 to 8 p.m. Does that kind of a schedule make any sense?
The four-day school sessions would raise havoc with working parents, assuming both are holding jobs, and particularly with single-parent households. Truly rural households are more likely to have a stay-at-home adult. Hernando County isn’t ready for a generation of kids hanging out on a free Monday or Friday with a house key dangling around their necks.
That’s where a four-day week would lead. Either that, or to escalating family poverty. Is that what our educational higher-ups would rather see?
It should be easy to engage all our county leaders to cover potential school deficits in other ways. Start with the school superintendent’s own salary. It’s a bad precedent that he’s getting a 5 percent increase while everybody else risks being out-of-pocket. It makes much more sense to see that our county schoolteachers earn competitive salaries.
I’m sure that there are plenty of Hernando County bureaucracies that could stand a few hundred thousand dollars worth of trimming in Brooksville. Fine-tooth other county investments, too. Do we really need, as one letter to the editor recently pondered, a $25,000 outdoor toilet at one end of the Suncoast Parkway’s bike trail? Do we really need elaborate park facilities just so our dogs can do their daily doo-doo?
Can’t we write off the Elgin Boulevard expansion as a bad deal instead of spending millions of dollars more flexing our eminent domain muscles? Apply the surplus funds to education, and one-way Elgin traffic, instead.
Some of these suggestions may be unrealistic, but at least they’re outside of the old box. The idea of a four-day school week, however, is way too far out.

A regular columnist for Hernando Today, John Herbert lives in Spring Hill.

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