The Case for Four-Day School Weeks: As Told By One Minnesota School District

In the heart of Minnesota, the Belgrade school district has implemented a four-day school week, a decision that has brought numerous benefits to students, parents, and educators alike.

The Genesis of the Four-Day School Week

The four-day school week in Belgrade, MN, was initially adopted as a cost-saving measure. With rising operational costs and tight budgets, the district sought ways to reduce expenses without compromising the quality of education. By eliminating one school day each week, the district significantly cut down on transportation costs, utility bills, and other operational expenses. Dr. Jon S. Turner, an associate professor at Missouri State University who has extensively researched the four-day school week, notes that these savings can be substantial, particularly for rural districts where bus routes are long and costly.

Financial Benefits

Dr. Emily Morton, a researcher at the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, points out that the average district saves about $50,000 per year by switching to a four-day school week. For Belgrade, these savings were crucial in maintaining other essential programs and resources that directly impact student learning and well-being. While $50,000 may not seem like a windfall, for many districts operating on tight margins, this amount can mean the difference between cutting a program and keeping it running.

Improved Teacher Retention and Recruitment

Another significant benefit of the four-day school week is its impact on teacher retention and recruitment. The Belgrade school district, like many others, faced challenges in attracting and retaining qualified teachers. The shorter week has proven to be a powerful incentive. According to Dr. Turner, when the Independence School District in suburban Kansas City adopted a four-day week, the number of teacher applications quadrupled. Similarly, Belgrade saw an increase in applications and was able to fill positions more effectively, reducing turnover and ensuring a more stable and experienced teaching staff.

Enhanced Student and Family Well-Being

For many families, the four-day school week has been a game-changer. Kayla Dickhoff, a parent in the Belgrade district, describes how Mondays have become a valuable “catch-up and refresh” day for her six children. This extra day allows students to complete homework, engage in extracurricular activities, and spend quality time with family. According to surveys conducted by Dr. Turner’s research team, 70 to 80 percent of parents in districts with a four-day week report positive experiences, citing increased family time, reduced stress, and improved student morale.

Kathryn Mounce, a parent from Lincoln, AR, echoes these sentiments, noting that the extra day off helps her children return to school feeling more refreshed and productive. This aligns with findings from the RAND Corporation, which reported a slight increase in school attendance rates in districts with four-day weeks, likely due to the flexibility of having an extra day off for appointments and family activities.

Academic Performance and Discipline

While concerns about academic performance are valid, research shows mixed results. Dr. Morton’s studies indicate that rural districts like Belgrade experience little to no negative impact on academic outcomes. In fact, some data suggests that the benefits of improved teacher retention and reduced student stress may offset the potential drawbacks of fewer instructional days. Additionally, there is evidence that discipline issues, such as bullying and fighting, decrease with the shorter school week, contributing to a more positive school environment.

Staff Writer
Staff Writer
ForEveryMom staff contributed to this article.

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