Opinion | Four-day school week would improve mental health for students

Iowa City Community School District needs to improve students’ education and mental health by shorting the week to four days


Jake Maish

A sign for the Iowa City Community School District is seen outside the district’s administration building on Tuesday, April 28.

Luke Krchak, Opinions Columnist

On March 9, Iowa City Community School District Superintendent Matt Degner presented a possible change to four-day school weeks — this is a necessary change to improve students’ school-home life.

While Iowa City schools Superintendent Degner stressed it was only a discussion to gather feedback, he presented two possible calendars with four-day weeks, as well as shorter summers to the board. Both calendars would make classes year-round.

Mental health is the main reason why the school board is discussing the move to four-day school week, because it can impact students’ ability to learn.

Currently, Iowa law only allows for year-round schools up to eighth grade. However, the benefits for a four-day week would be beneficial for grades 9-12 as well.

Without changing the state law, other districts have provided a possible solution by extending the hours in the school day. Cardinal School District in Eldon, Iowa is Tuesday through Friday most of the year, with high school hours of 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

In Iowa City schools, high school students are in class from 8:50 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, except Thursdays end at 3 p.m., so seven hours and 10 minutes for Mondays through Fridays, and six hours and 10 minutes for Thursdays.

Iowa City could make the shift to a longer four-day week, with adding an extra 30 to 45 minutes to avoid pushing classes to summer.

However, the days are already long enough to start to lose students’ attention, and long summers are already a problem of its own.

Students lose knowledge from year to year because of summer break. By shortening summer break, we can reduce the “summer slide” and provide shorter weeks and more breaks throughout the year.

The calendars also use Friday as a day off for students to use the school for extracurriculars. With the current calendar, extracurriculars are not as easy to fit in and can often discourage students from joining.

Extracurriculars can allow students to experience topics and activities outside of the curriculum, letting them discover new interests.

Iowa City is not the only district in Iowa and the country having conversations about shortening the school week to four days. This is in our new era of student first education and using psychology to better understand how we can improve students’ mental health and learning.

One study by the RAND Corporation published in 2021 presented the benefits for both mental health and learning experience with a four day school week compared to students with a five-day school week.

On the learning side, students with four-days week increased time spent on homework, jobs, and other extracurriculars and hobbies. Although, there was little to no change in the number students absent from class or dealing with food insecurities.

On the mental health side, students with four-day weeks had improved sleep, getting more hours of sleep a night and feeling less tired. Ninety percent of high school students said they spent their extra day at home, giving students a day of rest from schoolwork and being at school.

However, one of the major concerns that parents have brought up is child care during the extra day off. During the pandemic, this was also a major concern with online schooling.

Parents and students must keep talking with Iowa City community schools and other school districts to solve issues like child care and to ensure that students can receive the necessary aid and education.

Although there are problems like child care that still need to be worked out for the four-day school week to work, we should not push the idea aside.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.