Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Legislature considering allowing school districts to shift to four day week

Recently, Sate Representatives Newhouse (R-15), Chandler (R-15), and Simpson (D-47) announced they were introducing legislation to allow school districts to shorten the school week from five days to four.

The intention of House Bill 1292 is to provide local superintendents and school boards with a new option for cutting costs.

The proposed legislation reads, in part:
The legislature finds that school districts are seeking innovations to reduce operating costs and preserve limited resources for the primary purpose of student learning. Efficiencies in transportation, heat, lights, maintenance, and food expenses are possible from operating for four rather than five days per week, but current law poses a barrier to this innovation by requiring a set number of instructional days in each school year.
Granted, this legislation wouldn't necessarily force students, parents, and teachers to move to a four day week. It would simply give district administrators extra leeway to decide when to hold classes. The question is whether such a change would be in the best interest of Washington's students.

I am a high school student, so I can easily imagine what a four day week would look like. The loss of one day each week would mean that classes would be an hour long instead of fifty minutes. That may not sound like much, but it adds up.

I and my peers would be at school for eight hours and ten minutes a day, plus whatever amount of time we spend studying and working on extracurricular activities - which for many kids is an hour or longer every day.

So that's roughly nine and a half to ten hours at school four days out of seven. Then there's travel time, which varies depending on how close a student lives to a school, and homework, which can easily take over an hour for most students and more than two hours for those taking advanced classes.

Considering that young people are urged to get at least eight hours of sleep each day, that leaves very little family time or free time.

That is not fair to me, nor to any other student.

I am unequivocally opposed to the idea of a four day school week. The savings are minimal at best, while there is considerable risk of a negative impact to students. If cutting costs is the most important objective, why don't we have students and teachers telecommute to school?

We have brick and mortar classrooms because school is not simply about teaching a curriculum. It's about learning to live in society.

Go into any school and ask students what their favorite class of the day is. Chances are you'll hear lunch over and over again.

There's more to school than reading, writing, and math.

Governor Gregoire and state legislators have a responsibility to ensure that our public schools remain strong and vibrant, even in these tough economic times. There are better ways to save money than shortening the school week (like turning lights off on school buildings during the nighttime when nobody's around).

Cost cutting measures that could hurt students are not shortcuts worth trying.


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