Wild Ideas

5 x 8 = 40, and 4 x 10 = 40. Therefore, 5 x 8 = 4 x 10… except that five eight-hour days are more costly to operate than four ten-hour days.

The Y-12 National Security Complex implemented this schedule for salaried employees (hourly employees turned it down) a few years ago, in an effort to reduce operating costs while boosting productivity. A nice side effect is that employees save fuel, reducing their commute by 20%. The three-day weekends are pretty sweet, too. An article in the Tennessean this morning indicates that local governments and community colleges around the country are now exploring this possibility.

A few school systems nationwide have also made this transition, beginning in Southwestern states where the population density is low and students must travel great distances to school each day.

In Colorado, where state law has allowed the abbreviated week since 1980, more than a third of school districts have switched to a four-day schedule. The savings include transportation costs (reduced by 20%), utilities, and food service.

Custer School District in South Dakota has had a successful experience, while others have not.

The positives: cost savings (energy, food, fuel), improved attendance rates, longer periods of uninterrupted learning time
The negatives: long-day burnout, missing a day due to illness is a 20% greater learning loss

Note that I didn’t list child care as either a negative or a positive; for parents working a 5-day week, it does create a need. On the other hand, parents who work have often found (in the systems that have already switched) that it’s easier to find someone to keep their children for one whole day, than for a few hours after work every day.

Such a radical idea won’t work if it’s top-down, though. It would have to be something with broad parental support, and careful consideration of unintended consequences. But, it’s worth thinking and talking about.

5 thoughts on “Wild Ideas

  1. As I understand it the idea was floated to the State Dept. of Education, and State Board members at the last State wide DOS meeting in hopes of instituting the program. It went down in flames for now. I advocate the idea also, and want it to happen.

  2. I wonder if anyone has ever studied the productivity intead of the savings. It is my understanding that productivity drops because of being tired. More time is spent socializing on the job and less working. Can children endure 10 hours a day with no daylight to blow off steam when they get home?

  3. Intersting idea.

    I was in a discussion recently about improving schools and the other person suggested we needed year round schools. I know that subject generates many emotional responses for and against. So I suggested that we need to know first what we want accomplished by high school graduation and then work backwards to determine the number of hours of instruction it will take to reach that goal. Then we can determine the composition — longer schools days, year round or longer school schedule, pre-k start for everyone or even a 13th year.

    If we added P.E. to the daily program and a study hall (with instructional support) we might have the variety of activity to have a longer school day.

    I recall an 8 period day which include one full period for lunch, study hall and PE each. We have five classes per day.

    Bottom line — it looks like we need more instructional hours to achieve the educational needs for our children to prepare them for the workforce or post secondary training.

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