- In the year 2000, only 39 school districts in Colorado operated on a four-day schedule, but now 104 of the state's 178 school districts follow the four-day format, leaving roughly 80,000 students at loose ends on the fifth day, which seems to be a factor in rising crime rates in thise districts, Chalkbeat reports.
- The fifth day does offer freedom for students to participate in educational enrichment programs, workplace opportunities or volunteer work and does allow time for parents to schedule doctor's appointments or family outings. But relying on nonprofit organizations to provide enrichment opportunities, some with the help of grants, can create equity issues for families who don’t have access to the time and transportation that some of these opportunities require.
- Antonio Parés of the Donnell-Kay Foundation, has studied the issue and recommends lawmakers provide stronger financial incentives to school districts to provide a learning experience five days a week, even if the fifth day involves more non-traditional learning experiences. He also feels that lawmakers, with voter support, should use tax credits to incentivize nonprofit organizations to serve students on the fifth day as a way to solve the child care issues that many parents face.
According to a 2018 report by the National Conference of State Legislatures, roughly 560 school districts in 25 states have at least one school operating on a four-day schedule. Most of these districts are in four states: Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma and Oregon.
Though four-day school weeks are gaining in popularity, the move to a four-day school week remains controversial. Though many school districts make the switch for budgetary reasons, the shortened week does not always save money. Nor is there conclusive evidence that the approach improves test scores. These results vary from district to district as does the impact on the community, research finds. And Oklahoma is currently looking at ideas to discourage the four-day school week because it seems to have a negative effect on attracting industries.
The four-day school week, however, has become increasingly popular with teachers and is used a recruiting tool in some districts. It is also popular with stay-at-home parents who like the flexibility the shortened week offers. Students also have more time to explore educational interests, spend time outside, or catch up on assignments.
But for many families, the situation creates a child supervision crisis they are unable to solve. In these cases, students may be left on their own, which may account for the increase in criminal activity. Other parents scramble for child care solutions that may be less than ideal or they are forced to take off time from work they cannot afford. Some of these families also scramble to find enough food to feed their families when school weeks are shortened.
Some districts are working with local nonprofit agencies to secure grants for programming on these days off. Organizations such as local Boys & Girls Clubs and local YMCAs are likely partners as they often already provide after-school care. Other organizations such as science museums, libraries and other nonprofits may also be willing to develop programs to accommodate these students. Local businesses and industries may be enlisted to provide workplace opportunities or internships on these days.
A primary challenge for many families is transportation. School districts may have the capacity to provide transportation, but that is often one of the economic factors that led the district to adopt a four-day schedule in the first place. In places where mass transit is available, the issue may be more easily addressed, but in rural areas, the solution is not as simple. Enlisting the help of parents in brainstorming the issue can lead to the creative carpooling arrangements that may help solve the problem.