Meridian High School Student Newspaper - The Lasso

The Lasso

Meridian High School Student Newspaper - The Lasso

The Lasso

Meridian High School Student Newspaper - The Lasso

The Lasso

A Four Day School Week is Legal in Virginia. Should We Implement It At Meridian?

Implementing a four day school week would allow students to have more free time. (Graphic by Sesh Sudarshan)

As the year draws to a close, we can take the time to reflect on the many long weeks which rolled by, one by one. While some parts of the year went by in a flash, some periods, particularly in the second and third quarters, felt painfully slow. However, there might be a solution to make the year progress at a more manageable pace: the four-day school week. 

This choice is rapidly growing in popularity. According to the Associated Press, in 2023, nearly 900 school districts across the country have already adopted the shorter school week.

However, before getting into the details of the four day school week, it is important to demonstrate that it is legally feasible. FCCPS currently has 180 school days, the minimum under Virginia law. However, to shift to a four day school week, many of those days would need to be cut. The solution lies in a Virginia law saying that if a district doesn’t have 180 school days, they may alternatively have 990 instructional hours. 

Currently, under next year’s schedule of 8:25 AM- 3:10 PM each day, FCCPS will achieve 1215 hours of instructional time, far over the required minimum. Accounting for 1 day each week being lost (multiplying every week by 0.8), the schedule would land at 972 hours, 18 hours below the minimum (roughly 3 days). However, 12 weeks in the schedule are already either 4 days long or shorter due to holidays, and this would save 12 days from being cut. This would increase the in-school hours to roughly 9 days beyond the Virginia minimum hours of instruction without needing to lengthen the school day. 

Alternatively, for those who don’t wish to see the amount of instructional time reduced, the city could extend the school day to match the current number of hours. Studies have shown that even with the amount of instructional time remaining the same, many of the benefits mentioned below still hold true. 

Four day weeks could have many benefits, from increased free time and flexibility for students, to an increase in attendance rates. Four-day school weeks have also been shown to lead to decreases in stress, as well as decreases in bullying and fighting.

Many students “zone out” when Friday comes around the corner due to fatigue, and simply giving the day off outright may greatly increase productivity the other 4 days of the school week. 

Moreover, given the resounding popularity of the 4 day work week in some workplaces, there is reason to believe that the same concept could be applied to high school students.

It is important to note that the four day week has downsides. Many of the studies cited above find a benefit in some categories but not in others, laying doubt on the degree of the potential benefits. Additionally, other studies show that student performance is either not boosted by the lost day or is actually negatively affected. Furthermore, some proposed benefits, such as lowered maintenance costs, failed to materialize. 

With that being said, many of the studies pointing away from the four day school week have been performed in rural counties that have so far been among the few to switch over. These districts have a very different academic environment than FCCPS. For instance, according to The New York Times, Falls Church has by far the best math test scores in the state. Falls Church City students would likely not see the same negative repercussions but would rather reap the benefits of a productive break to study and recover.  Studies have shown that taking breaks in the middle of a task can increase productivity. The same concept could hold true on a more long term level, especially in a district in which students often feel the heavy workload of the IB diploma. 

Falls Church City has the best math test scores in the state. (Graphic via The New York Times)

Finally, one of the main concerns with the 4 day week is not the educational aspect but rather potential childcare difficulties. However, given that most middle and high schoolers can legally be without adult supervision, the city could implement the four day week only for middle and high schoolers, who are the ones who could benefit from it the most, due to their enhanced workload. Retaining the same pay level for our teachers under the new schedule would also help keep our existing teachers and attract new ones in an increasingly difficult job market

As a small school district, FCCPS has the ability to change its school schedule rather freely, without having to worry about repercussions across numerous high schools.  

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About the Contributor
Sesh Sudarshan
Sesh Sudarshan, Staff Writer
Sesh is a freshman who enjoys reading, watching TV, and playing soccer. This is his first year writing for The Lasso.