Four-day school week cuts learning opportunities

The Eatonville School District is considering cutting 30 days a year from the schedule to save money. The harm to education isn't worth the small savings.

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As school districts across the state look for ways to cut costs in the midst of Washington's financial struggles, talk of four-day school weeks has surfaced. And at least one district -- Eatonville -- is giving the idea serious consideration.

A four-day school week is a bad idea. The savings are relatively small and the negative impact on education and families can be huge.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported last week that the district is considering cutting 30 days of school while adding one hour to each school day. Teachers would retain the same salaries but savings would come from cuts to food service, utilities and transportation. It is estimated this move will save enough money to allow for full-day kindergarten -- which is a good thing -- and trim $200,000 from district's $18 million budget.

That's far from an even swap.

Students wouldn't benefit from the extra hour of school. That's only a few minutes in each of six or seven classes high school and middle school students take each day. And the extra hour could be a real drain on elementary school students with short attention spans.

Having students out of school on Fridays would be tough for families. That means child care would have to be found for young children on that day. That care is already difficult to find and it would be nearly impossible for a single day each week. Even if care could be found, it would be a significant expense for families.

And while most middle school and high school students can be left alone, this idle time could be a disaster for some, as not all kids will use it wisely and some will get into trouble.

The bottom line is that a four-day school week reduces the opportunity for students to learn.

Currently, state law does not allow for a four-day school week. That means Eatonville can't move forward with this plan until the state law is changed.

The Legislature would be wise to reject a move to change the law. Schools should remain on a five-day school week schedule.

Finding a way to provide more funding for schools should be the priority. Educational opportunities must be increased, not diminished.

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