The four-day school week: Giving a recipe for success


Ananya Pinnamaneni

A four-day school week is a novel take on the traditional five-day week, and it can alleviate stress and come with a variety of other benefits.

All over the world, the idea of the four-day workweek is quickly taking hold, and in the midst of a pandemic that has changed the way we go about our daily lives, workers have started to value more flexibility and freedom in their schedules. Furthermore, people have started to value their lives, their families and so much more over their careers, causing the push for a better work environment even greater. So, the question is, what would happen if that same concept was applied to a school week? 

What exactly is the four-day workweek?

The four-day workweek is an extension of the idea of the five-day workweek. The idea of the five-day workweek itself was popularized in 1926, when Henry Ford shut off his factory on the weekends while paying his employees the same salary, which allowed for increased productivity and leisure time. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 called forth a maximum 40-hour workweek lasting five days and a two-day weekend. 

Two possibilities of the four-day workweek include: one, where 32 hours is spread across four days (essentially removing the fifth day completely) and two, where over the course of the four days, each day is longer and has 10 hours, thus meeting the maximum quote specified by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Each of them has its own merits and drawbacks. 

So why implement a four-day workweek into DVHS’ own school week? Several reasons: chief among them being pure, concentrated free time. Having a whole extra day to relax, reflect and plan, as well as focus on personal matters, can alleviate the stress that many students feel.

Decreased Stress and Improved Productivity

A main point in favor of the four-day workweek is, of course, the decreased stress. Having three days off can allow for more leisure time and hobbies, which could lead to a greater sense of personal satisfaction and growth. 

Many high schools across the country place students under excessive amounts of stress, which can have a negative impact on productivity. The introduction of the four-day school week could help alleviate this and improve the productivity of both students and teachers.

I think that having a three-day weekend every week is kind of nice. … I think [at] this school a lot of people have a lot of stress; they spend a lot of time doing homework. So it would be more tiring during the weekdays, but less stressful during the weekends

Furthermore, a study conducted by Microsoft Japan found that worker productivity increased by 40% as a result of the four-day workweek, while job satisfaction showed a positive correlation trend. According to NPR, this increased productivity was the result of decreasing meeting durations and other time management improvements, such as workers using “collaborative chat channels rather than ‘wasteful’ emails and meetings.” The results of the study are very notable, especially in a culture such as Japan’s, where “workaholism” is a rampant problem.

It’s no secret that DVHS is notorious for its high stress levels. Not a day goes by when a student doesn’t complain about the three tests that they have on the same day. Having an extra day off may allow for some additional time to relax before any big tests.

“I think that having a three-day weekend every week is kind of nice. … I think [at] this school a lot of people have a lot of stress; they spend a lot of time doing homework. So it would be more tiring during the weekdays, but less stressful during the weekends,” Dougherty Valley freshman Yiming Jia said.

Extracurricular Activities

Many DV students have committed themselves to extracurricular activities, such as sports, outside classes and volunteering. This becomes a struggle when managing academic time as well as maintaining social relationships with friends and family. Giving students an extra day of the week to focus on these activities could solve existing time conflicts with school.  

For example, an article published by Lamar University noted that a four-day school week would let athletic activities be moved to the fifth, empty day of the week. This would be especially beneficial for student athletes, as sports activities often require large amounts of time during school days.

In the study “The Four Day School Week: An Investigation and Analysis,” researchers from Eastern New Mexico University corroborated these results, reporting that, “Often, because of the distances involved for competition and activities with other schools, significant amounts of instructional time are lost. Several districts have worked to hold all extracurricular activities on the day when no classes are held. Some districts are even scheduling activities such as ski trips, field trips, and swimming lessons on that day.”

On the other hand…

Some have expressed concerns over student learning in the condensed four-day school week. For example, an article by EdWeek examined recent research on the effects of the four-day school week. It was observed that four-day school weeks provided students and teachers with more freedom and flexibility in their schedules, but that “student growth in the four-day districts began to fall short compared to that in similarly situated five-day districts. The finding grew more pronounced with time and the slowdown in achievement was more dramatic in math than in reading.”

However, these findings could be attributed to the decreased learning time of schools in the study’s sample. The author noted that although districts using the four-day school week had an additional 50 minutes added to their schedule, these schools averaged 58 fewer hours of school time in the entire school year. Therefore, a possible solution to this issue is to maintain the same amount of instructional time for both four-day and five-day school weeks, which would mitigate learning gaps between the two modes of learning.

Moving forward

The four-day school week is an idea that can transform how we manage our time in school for the better. With the potential to decrease stress and improve productivity, as well as to give more time towards out of school activities, the idea deserves serious consideration, and individual school districts should begin conducting research to see if it can be successfully implemented in their schools.