School districts ought to have some flexibility in drawing up yearly attendance schedules. But a new proposal to reduce the school week to four days raises some serious questions.
Districts in some states already have adopted a four-day school week. Now, with rising energy costs and declining state revenues, some South Carolina districts are considering the idea.
Under this proposal, the school day would be longer, but students would get three days off instead of two. A school district in Kentucky has been using the system since 2003, and officials there say the district has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in transportation and energy costs. At the same time, test scores have gone up and morale has improved.
We are skeptical, however, that every district would see the same results. State law requires South Carolina students to attend school for at least 180 days. How would school districts make up the lost days if they were to go to a four-day week?
American students already spend less time in the classroom than most of their peers around the world. On average, U.S. students go to school 6.5 hours a day, 180 days a year, or about 799 hours a school year.
South Korean students attend school for 1,078 hours a year, and students in Austria, Belgium, Iceland, France, Spain and Australia, to name a few, are not far behind. The international average is 889 hours. Thus, the average school year is about three weeks longer than in the United States.
If anything, U.S. students need to be going to school more days out of the year, not fewer.
A four-day school week also poses significant logistical problems. What would working parents do with their children on the extra day when they are not in school?
Parents would either have to risk leaving their children home alone or pay to send them to a supervised activity center of some kind. Many families would find it hard to shoulder that new expense.
What may appeal to some as a quick fix for rising fuel costs could further erode the quality of education in the state. That's a fix we can't afford.
South Carolina students already are spending too few days in the classroom.
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