Pennsylvania Law Now Permits a 4-day School Week

Students in Pennsylvania public school districts may have the option to attend school for only four days each week. In December, a new law was passed in Pennsylvania that changed the requirements for the number of school days and instruction hours. The law removed the previous requirement of having a minimum of 180 school days with at least 900 instruction hours each year.

Districts now have the option to choose between two different ways of meeting the school day requirements. They can either have 180 school days or meet specific hourly instruction requirements. For elementary students, the requirement is 900 hours, and for secondary students, it is 990 hours.

Having a four-day school week with longer hours on either Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday would still fulfill the necessary amount of instructional time. However, school districts in the Erie area are not showing interest in participating.

“We haven’t had those conversations here,” said Brad Whitman, who is the executive director of Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit 5. IU5, which is located in Edinboro, offers educational services to 17 public school districts in Erie, Crawford, and Warren counties.

Not a New Concept

Some school districts in the Midwest and West already have four-day school weeks. Their number is increasing. According to Paul Thompson from Oregon State University, there are now almost 900 school districts in 26 states that have shorter schedules. This is an increase from 662 districts in 2019. Thompson has examined the pattern.

Out of Colorado’s 178 school districts, about two-thirds of them have a four-day week. In Oregon and Missouri, about one-third of the population is represented by this percentage.

The school officials in Pennsylvania will need some time to think about the advantages and disadvantages of having a shorter school week. This was not the main purpose of the new legislation, according to Whitman.

The purpose was to provide school officials with more freedom to handle situations such as boiler failure, water line breaks, and fire incidents. This includes the fire in May that caused Girard’s Elk Valley Elementary School to close for the rest of the school year.

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“According to Whitman, the change gives districts more flexibility to choose how they teach as long as they still meet the required number of instructional hours.” “The solar eclipse showed that school districts can choose to change how they teach or even take a day off without being punished.” School officials may decide to shorten the school week by one day.

Potential Benefits and Challenges

Having a four-day school week can be appealing to staff and can also assist school districts in filling job openings. Teachers can use a day off from classes to get ready for lessons, grade papers, catch up on other work, or just take an extra day off, depending on their contract agreements.

The Manhattan School District #3 in New York decided to have a four-day school week this year because the teachers’ union asked for it. This information can be found on the district website. The union asked for a shorter school week to make it easier for the district to find and keep teachers.

In the Independence School District in Missouri, the superintendent said in August that teacher applications increased four times after the district changed to a Tuesday-Friday schedule. In a survey conducted by the Education Week Research Center in December, two-thirds of teachers, principals, and school district leaders said they would be more willing to work in a school district with a four-day week.

The shorter week could also help school districts attract bus drivers, who are currently in short supply across the country. It could also help districts save money on transportation and food service costs. “I’ve heard that there are discussions in the eastern part of the state about having four-day school weeks. This is mainly due to transportation issues,” Whitman said.

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