As the fuel crisis continues, schools are becoming the latest victim to the high costs of transportation. One in seven school boards across the country are deciding on if a four-day school week is the way to go to save gas money.
Some school districts like those in California are considering cutting out bus service altogether.
By the end of last year's school term districts watched their gas costs go up as much as 40 per cent. Those costs are eating into budgets that are already stretched to the breaking point.
In the 1970's school districts also faced a fuel crisis. At that time many districts gave kids a three day weekend and cut field trips that required busing.
While a four day week takes a day out of students attendance they remain in school for the same amount of time each week with longer days. In Louisiana Caldwell Parish the school day will begin at 7:50 am and end at 4:09 pm for example.
There are no studies on how a 4-day school week has on student performance. One district in Kentucky, Webster County has had this schedule for five years. The change has saved the school board over $300,000 to date on transportation, utility and insurance costs. Webster County also found that student absenteeism decreased when they shortened the school week for both students and teachers. In 2003 the district was ranked at 111th in the state according to standardized testing. Last year its ranking had increased to 53rd.
Still critics argue that American children need to spend more time in school rather than less to get a foot up on other nations whose ranking has surpassed the U.S educationally. On average American children are in school 180 days; that is three weeks less time a year compared to children in Europe and Asia.
A more immediate concern is that of parents scrambling to find and be able to afford additional child care that comes with a missing school day. More children may be placed at risk because families simply can not afford the additional costs.
After school activities may also suffer with the longer school days. Children may not have the time nor energy to do anything other than school work four days a week.
School boards will have to level whether which evil is the best for their charges, fewer days in school or more money to run the schools. Hopefully the choice they make will not affect the future of their students in the end.