US schools are adopting four day weeks

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Independence, Mo., Sept. 26: It's a Monday in September, but with schools closed, the three children in the Pruente household have nowhere to be. Callahan, 13, contorts herself into a backbend as 7-year-old Hudson fiddles with a balloon and 10-year-old Keegan plays the piano.

Like a growing number of students around the U.S, the Pruente children are on a four-day school schedule, a change instituted this fall by their district in Independence, Missouri.

To the kids, it's terrific. "I have a three-day break of school!" exclaimed Hudson.

But their mom, Brandi Pruente, who teaches French in a neighboring district in suburban Kansas City, is frustrated to find herself hunting for activities to keep her kids entertained and off electronics while she works five days a week.

"I feel like I'm back in the COVID shutdown," she said.

Hundreds of school systems around the country have adopted four-day weeks in recent years, mostly in rural and western parts of the U.S. Districts cite cost savings and advantages for teacher recruitment, although some have questioned the effects on students who already missed out on significant learning during the pandemic.

For parents, there also is the added complication, and cost, of arranging child care for that extra weekday. While surveys show parents approve overall, support wanes among those with younger children.

On this Monday, Brandi Pruente was home because Hudson had a mysterious rash on his arm. Most weeks, her oldest would be in charge, with occasional help from grandparents. She has no interest in paying for the child care option the district is offering for $30 per day. Multiplied by several kids, it adds up.

"I want my kids in an educational environment," she said, "and I don't want to pay for somebody to babysit them."

Even then, the district-provided child care isn't as convenient because it's not in every school. And in other four-day districts, so many parents adjust their work schedule or enlist family to help that the day care has been discontinued because of low enrollment. (AP)

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