Monday, February 09, 2009

There is an article in StlToday about a new measure in Missouri that would allow school districts the option of having a 4-day school week, with longer days (8 hours instead of 6). It sounds like something that would mostly benefit rural school districts that spend oodles of money transporting kids from way out into school (only run the busses 4 out of 5 days a week, you know). Most urban/suburban schools interviewed aren't interested in the switch.

The topic is interesting to me as is the comment thread that follows it. I couldn't believe how many responders were outraged at the potential cost of babysitting on that 5th day a week.

Um, hello. If all pertinent parents work full time (assuming 40 hours in a traditional work schedule), aren't you already paying for babysitting? I know that if I dropped off kids at 8am and picked them up at 3pm, there's no way I could put in a 40 hour workweek. I would guess that most families are already either flexing time (one spouse working early, one working later), or relying on before/afterschool care for their kids. Instead of adding to the cost, it seems to me that going to school for 4 8-hour days would just consolidate it into 1 day a week. Move, not add.

I guess this caught my interest because as we look into Kindergartens for Charlotte for next year, we're already struggling with how the scheduling is going to work. I only work 4 days a week (well, 32.5 hours, in however many days that takes me), so we have a little wiggle room. But that doesn't account for a 7:50 drop off, a 2:50 pickup, and commute time to work. Plus teacher inservice days. And holidays. And spring break. And summer. God forbid someone should ever get sick or have a week-day doctor appointment.

Ye gads. How on earth do 2-job families do this stuff? It seems like we'll be paying through the nose for after school and summercamps, and will still have no way to accrue any vacation time for an honest-to-goodness vacation at any point.

I know some parents look forward to elementary school to help ease the financial burden of daycare. But as we add up the cost of private school tuition (our choice, I know, though I'm not content with the alternative in this case) plus all the extra care, I don't think we'll be saving anything. We'll be possibly even upping our yearly cost. And that's saying something.

In short, I think its overblown for parents to feel "outrage" over a change in schedule, when the original schedule is no more work-friendly than the proposed alternative. Existing school schedules seem to be holdovers from the sole-provider days where Mom always stayed home. Summer camps and before/after school programs are just a patch job on the issue, not a solution.

I wish I had a good fix to propose. We don't even have a fix for our own family's schedule. And winning lottery tickets are scarce on the sidewalks around here.


Bethany said...

Our district had the same conversation about schedules. Moriarty School District is rural (VERY RURAL) and the largest district in the state. Here's a map showing how big it really is:,cfips,057,c,torrance.cfm

Anyway, they had a horrible time when gas prices went up because transportation was breaking the budget by millions. In the end the board wouldn't sign off on it though by arguing that gas prices shouldn't decide the school schedule.

But it was really about that 5th day. I think there are so many options for that 5th day it's ridiculous. I mean, think of all the fun things you could add to the day if you had a voluntary paid program. AND, what about all the kids who are behind on their studies...perfect time for tutoring, additional review, etc.

My only concern with a 4 day week is that it would turn into longer days with a 5 day week instead. Kids need some down time (which could be done with longer hours if schools would integrate more sports activities and clubs). School is really stressful for kids right now, and I don't think school should be stressful, it should be fun to learn. They should look forward to finding out new things. Stress can wait until high school and college.

Amanda said...

Some parents are able to work earlier or later to make sure one parent is home when kids get on bus and when they get home. Not uncommon with shift jobs, such as my brother's where he's off after 2. BTW, if you need babysitter for days off, I'm already home. Summer might be questionable, but it might be doable. I'm a heck of a lot cheaper than daycare :)