Just a short (but oh so long) year ago, districts around the country abruptly shut down to figure out how to navigate pandemic learning. Over that year, we’ve been forced to ask ourselves, as parents, students, teachers, and administrators, about the true purpose of school, and how we best learn and teach. One of the most surprising findings is that after experiencing a hybrid of virtual and in-person learning, sometimes going back and forth daily, some have concluded that maybe we don’t need students to be in person for all 5 days to be effective schools. What if the pandemic’s silver lining was a schedule that gave kids, and teachers, the time they’ve always needed to catch up? Let’s examine the pros and cons, and what teachers and students could do with this newfound time.

It’s not a new concept

Even pre-pandemic, districts were chatting about the idea of moving to a 4-day week, with an eye towards building in enrichment and extra help opportunities on that fifth day. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ update in April 2020, 560 districts across 25 states had already implemented the schedule, many of them in Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma, and Oregon. The idea of a 4-day week also mirrors a rising trend for companies around the world, citing increased productivity and morale for employees (which bosses are finding debatable).

It can save school districts money

What could districts do with not paying for electricity, water, and heat/air conditioning among other costs for that 5th day? Quite a bit, it turns out, as the same report says that districts might save up to 5.43%. We’ve been waiting to have a supply stipend for decades–maybe this is our chance.

Students would have a catch-up day

One of the most attractive parts of this schedule, for both teachers and students, would be the immense relief of finally having enough time to help students who have fallen behind, or who need more focused reteaching. Right now, we are cramming these help sessions into 5-minute bell changes, 25-minute lunch bells, and advisory/homeroom periods that are already busy with announcements and logistics. We know extra time, especially one-on-one or in small groups helps, so why not make a day for it?

Enrichment opportunities abound

So what would our high-flying overachievers be doing while the other students got extra help? All those enrichment activities we also never seem to have time for, far beyond the walls of our physical classroom. The options are endless, but could include community internships, nature walks, job shadowing, and STEAM activities that seem to fall by the wayside in the hustle and bustle of the 5-day week.  Virtual field trips have taught us all about the possibilities of allowing students to “see” different parts of the world. Zoom calls with experts in a variety of fields shouldn’t stop as the pandemic eases up, but maybe instead should have a permanent home on Fridays.

Teachers might actually catch up on grading and planning

Can you imagine starting a new week with your plans, schedule, and assignments all organized and ready (and leaving for the weekend at a reasonable hour)? Neither can we. This might be possible with a planning day meant to not only help and enrich students, but also to catch up on grading and planning. We’d be able to give essays the feedback they need, and wouldn’t be resorting to completion grades just to keep up with student output of work.

Collaborating with colleagues would make for better teaching

There’s a reason teachers are still chatting outside their doors when the bell rings to start class–there isn’t enough time to collaborate throughout the school week. Many teachers learn best and improve their practice by hearing what others are doing, sharing what did and didn’t work, and brainstorming new ideas together. When should this happen? Right now it’s over lunch breaks, after hours, and via text in the evenings. Imagine the quality of teaching that might take place with a scheduled time to collaborate with our teams, and even those who teach other grades and subjects.

While a 4-day week for students presents some issues for childcare and parents, the immense benefits of considering it as an ongoing option outweigh the stressors. The pandemic has taught us that we need to build in time to breathe, talk, catch up, and learn, and Fridays without in-person class just might be the answer.

I Allocated 15 Minutes a Day For Silent Reading. Here’s What Happened.