Many districts in Oklahoma allow schools to operate on a four-day week schedule, but now state lawmakers are considering new rules that would require schools to meet minimum standards to qualify. The minimum required number of days in the Oklahoma state school year is 165 days a year, with no less than 1,080 hours.
To qualify for a waiver for fewer days and hours in school, elementary and middle schools would have to meet or exceed the state average for academic growth in math and English with a “C” or higher on the most recent Oklahoma State report card. High schools would need an 82% graduation rate and have a grade letter of “C” or higher on the state report card.
Public comments in favor of the four-day week cite district savings, local control and time savings. Arguments in favor also cite that some districts in northeast Texas have moved to a four-day schedule, which many teachers prefer. However, those against the shorter week say the inconsistency of three-day weekends is difficult for their children and a burden on families to find child care once a week, and some say the shorter schedule is a move triggered by the lack of state education funds.
One argument against the four-day week came from a Noble Pines, Oklahoma, parent and community member who said the short week puts a burden on families in the impoverished area. Noble Public Schools is one of the districts that uses the four-day week schedule. Many there can’t afford childcare, and even if they could, there isn’t enough Friday childcare to house all the K-5 children in the community.
If the new rules are implemented, Erika Wright, of the Noble Public Schools Board of Education in Oklahoma, estimates 93% of 113 schools with four-day weeks would not qualify for the waiver.
In a number of states, four-day weeks are used as a teacher recruitment tool. Some argue having a weekday off to get errands done may reduce burnout and keep teachers in the profession longer. Missouri is among states where teacher recruitment is cited, and by next year, the state is expected to have 81 districts with four-day weeks.
New Mexico also tested the four-day schedule to save money, but the plan didn’t stick. Stakeholder reviews were mixed, with some appreciating the day off. But with very little money saved by districts, the state could not justify the inconvenience the shortened week caused for working parents who were forced to stay home or find childcare.