The Minnesota Department of Education recently approved a four-day school week for the MCCRAY school district located in rural west-central Minnesota. Starting this fall, students will attend school Tuesday through Friday for ten hours a day. The move to four days was driven by an attempt to save money.
School officials justify the move, citing an expected $85,000 in saved energy and transportation costs. Other communities that have instituted similarly compressed school weeks say that the concept works and that it does save money.
However, I’m not sold on the idea. First of all, this means that children will now be home on Mondays, a day that working parents likely won’t be. I’m sure there are plenty of mothers in this community who stay at home, but I like to believe we as a society don’t want to further this as the status quo. And for those who do work, they will now have to find (and pay for) child care one day a week. At that point, wouldn’t the children be better off in a classroom?
Second, while students will still be technically be spending the same number of hours per week in school (four 10-hour days vs. five 8-hour days), those hours will likely be less effective than before. Let’s face it – 10 hours is a long day for anyone, but it’s especially long for students and for the teachers who instruct our understaffed, overpopulated classrooms. How much quality learning will really be going on come 5 pm?
Furthermore, we are falling further and further behind the rest of the developed world in terms of providing quality education for our children. I understand and empathize with the desire to save money (just read any of my other posts), but I also recognize the value of a long term investment. There are places to cut costs and then there are places to invest for future return. This is one area where I wouldn’t skimp simply to save a few bucks today.
My son is only two years old and before his birth, I was a strong advocate of public schools. I still am a strong advocate for them and I think we need to fix the problems our public schools face rather than looking for ways around them. However, moves like the one by the Minnesota Department of Education make me pretty nervous over the thought of leaving his education at the mercy of the state.