Facing deep funding cuts during the economic downturn, increasing numbers of school districts nationwide are contemplating trimming the traditional school week to four days to save money.

A four-day week has long been confined to a few small rural districts looking to save on fuel costs. Indeed, many of the districts thinking of shaving a day off their weekly calendar have small enrollments -- such as the 940-student district in Bisbee, Ariz.

But some districts contemplating the move serve suburban or urban areas. The idea is being floated in South Florida's Broward County, the nation's fifth-largest school system.

A recent University of Washington study found that states are cutting 18% of their education spending over the next three years, eliminating as many as 574,000 jobs.

"When everything's lean and states have no money and are cutting budgets to schools, it's an easy way to save money without cutting staff," said Gary Spiker, superintendent of the tiny Ash Fork School District in northern Arizona, which has had a four-day week since the 1980s.

Typically, districts that hold classes four days a week extend school hours 60 to 90 minutes per day. Education experts say there are no definitive data showing whether a four-day week benefits or harms students.

The most common concern is voiced by parents who may have to scramble for an extra full day of child care. "For parents, the issue is if Johnny's not in school on Monday or Friday, where is he going to be?" said Marc Egan of the National School Boards Assn.

Source: Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-four-day4-2009may04,0,5367225.story