CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Hundreds of school districts across the nation are starting four-day school schedules this fall. Now, parents in Central Illinois are wondering if the state will follow suit.
While more than 900 school districts in 25 states are going full force on the new method, Rantoul teacher Tonia Kirby said Illinois should pump the brakes.
“We already have so many kids that don’t have structure at home, I think that day would be a detriment,” Kirby said.
The number of districts with a four-day week rose from 650 districts in 2020 to 876 in 2023. But that means kids are in the classroom for more hours per day. In Missouri, the Independence School District added an extra 35 minutes to each day and offered childcare for parents at $30 dollars a day.
School districts said recruiting and retaining teachers are some of the reasons for shortening their weeks. While she admires the effort Kirby believes that an extra day off would only create more tasks for educators.
“I know a lot of my friends would just be at school that day planning and working so they had adequate time to prepare for their lessons, because there’s never enough planning time for teachers,” Kirby said.
In her first 10 years as a teacher, Kirby said she was constantly catching up on assignments. As a mom, Kirby said she juggled time between her job and being there for her children. She said schools provide stability for parents who need somewhere to take their kids, and a four-day schedule could possibly derail that and much more.
“Every weekend I was at school photocopying, cutting things out, organizing things,” Kirby said. “A lot of kids come to school to eat. So, what would they eat on that extra day they’re not at school? A lot of parents don’t work a four-day workweek. So, would that leave a lot of children unsupervised?”
Champaign parent Adam Harris echoed those same comments and said one less day would mean more money out of his pocket to take care of his child.
“Right now, if that were to occur, no,” Harris said. “We would not have anyone to watch our kids and that would be an extra expense out of our pocket. Several hundred dollars a week probably to get someone to watch our kid.
In 2010, the Illinois House approved a proposal for four-day schooling because of a growing number of teacher layoffs and program cuts, but nothing came out of it. WCIA reached out to the Illinois State Board of Education to see if the shorter school week is something they’re interested in. They haven’t responded yet.
Harris said certain measures would need to be in place for him to be ok if they brought it up again.
“If major employers in our area, universities, Carle, places like that could maybe get on board with a system like this, I could see it working out,” Harris said.