By Tim Weldon
In Webster County, Ky., the hallways are quiet on Mondays. There are no banging lockers and no students crowding the hallways on their way to class. Like Webster County, some local school districts across the country are taking advantage of flexible state laws that allow them to adopt innovative approaches for greater efficiency. The hallmark approach is the four-day school week and some states are changing state laws to allow it.
Although abbreviated school weeks in the U.S. date back at least to the early 1970s, more school districts have expressed an interest in adopting alternative calendars in recent months. Those districts are primarily in isolated, rural counties, where the cost of transporting students is disproportionately high.
According to a study by the National School Boards Association, an estimated 100 school districts in 17 states have adopted four-day school weeks. Five years ago, schools in just nine states had condensed their school weeks to four days. Clearly, the soaring cost of energy is igniting interest in shorter school weeks, experts say.
However, student transportation costs played little role in Webster County’s decision. At the time it reduced its number of instructional days in 2003, diesel fuel cost the district less than $1 a gallon, according to Superintendent James Kemp. Nevertheless, the district faced a projected $350,000 shortfall, and Kemp recalls local school leaders faced a choice of cutting the school week or slashing either programs or personnel—perhaps both—to balance its budget.
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