A change to the traditional school schedule is thought to be one answer to sleepy students, a slow comeback from summer vacation, and high education costs.

The school day, week, or even year is no longer taken for granted to be 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday from September to June. School administrators are considering many different schedules that may not only benefit students, but save costs in an already strained school district budget. Teachers and students often have no input in the decision-making process, but have adapted to a new school schedule that has sometimes been very successful, and has not met expectations in other cases.

There are many ways that districts have tried altering the school schedule. Discover three of the most popular changes being made across the country.

1. School hours

school scheduleA delay in the school schedule start time to 8:30 a.m. or later is recommended to address teenagers’ sleep issues. The National Sleep Foundation’s 2006 poll showed that one in five adolescents get nine hours of sleep and almost half get less than eight hours of sleep per night. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement in 2014 which states “pushing back school start times is key to helping them achieve optimal levels of sleep — 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours a night,” and better academic performance.
More severe effects of sleep loss, according to the policy statement of the AAP, include poor attendance, lower academic achievement, increased risk for obesity, stroke and diabetes, higher rates of auto accidents, lower levels of physical activity, and increased risk for anxiety and depression.
A Minneapolis high school study showed that a delay in the start of the school schedule until at least 8:30 a.m. resulted in improvement of students’ grades and a reduction of both dropout and depression rates in students. But the late start is slow to catch on. Statistics from the U.S. Dept. of Education show that only 15 percent of the more than 18,000 public high schools in the United States start at 8:30 a.m. or later.

2. Four-day week

school scheduleThis school schedule change has come about to help school districts find relief from a budget crisis. In the state of Arizona, 42 school districts are on a four-day school schedule. These districts, like others in the U.S., hope to save money on transportation costs, building heating and cooling, and other school expenses. The actual savings experienced by the Apache Junction Unified School District in Arizona are reported to be only one percent of the annual budget.

This school schedule is very popular with teachers who use the free Friday to plan their lessons, complete professional development, or attend personal appointments. Parents, however, find the four-day schedule increases problems with child care and some have even sought private school education because of their preference for a five-day school schedule.

Over a third of the school districts in the state of Colorado are on the four-day schedule, but the comparison studies with other states on the five-day schedule differ — one finding that the shorter week allowed student academic gains; some saw no differences, and others found that those with the five-day school schedule had slightly lower academic results.

While school districts struggle to control costs, administrators are cautioned in a review from the University of Southern Maine Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation: “Savings must be weighed against an increased length of the school day, child-care needs on the off-day, and professional development needs” for teachers.

3. Year-round school

school schedule

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

“No summer vacation?” students cry when hearing of a district with a year-round school schedule. But the reality of this schedule is usually 45 days of school, followed by 15 days, or three weeks, of vacation. Students also have no school on major holidays. This educational approach is thought to replace the archaic one begun when the United States was basically an agricultural nation and students were needed to help with the harvest during the summer months.

Districts implementing year-round education find that students can forget a lot during the summer and they may retain more with shorter vacation periods. Boredom sets in for some students over the summer months and after-school activities on this regular basis keep them engaged. Some school districts find empty buildings for three months in the summer are inefficient. Parents often support this school schedule because of the decrease in the cost of child care and ability to take more family trips throughout the year.

Administrators focused on those budget issues find increased utility bills and maintenance issues problematic. Food costs are increased as the children are in school more days. Some teachers, especially those used to the traditional schedule, find it hard to start over again every nine weeks instead of every nine months.

What is your school schedule and how does it work for you and your students? Please share your experiences, both good and bad, in the comment section below this article. Sharing information will help educators find a school schedule that works for everybody!

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