Could a 4-Day school week work in Aggieland?

Some schools around the region are dropping Fridays and trying out a four-day school week. Institutions all over are trying to cut back energy costs while assisting their students as well.

Surely any student would be thrilled to hear that they can enjoy a Friday undisturbed and have the pleasure of a three-day weekend. It’s not only sweet music to the student, but for faculty, and can save the school a substantial amount in energy cost.

“I think it’s a ‘win-win’ situation for the employee and the employer,” says JOMC professor, Kim Smith. “A four-day work week saves gas, especially for commuters like me who can’t afford to sell their home and move to Greensboro because such a move would result in a greater monetary loss versus the cost of commuting to and from Charlotte one to two days a week. I’ve worked out a deal with relatives so I do have a place to stay so I don’t have to return to the Queen City every day.” The rough economy is making students as well as schools spend more and be funded less. Pockets everywhere are tight and everyone is searching for ways to save money.

One school, Brevard Community College in Florida, decided to experiment with the four-day school week. According to some sources, the college saved $267,000. The savings allowed Brevard to hire 10 full-time faculty members. The three-day weekend could allow students, as well as faculty, extra time to take care of other obligations. The college also saw a rise in online enrollment by 24.5 percent.

“Four-day work weeks help improve employee morale,” said Smith. “You get more rest and are eager to get back to work after a Friday off. Such a situation would make employees more productive.”

“In addition, the employer would save in heating, air conditioning and electric bills. Imagine how much of tax payer’s money North Carolina could save if it adopted a four-day work week. I wouldn’t mind putting in 10 hours a day for a Friday off,” Smith said.

Brevard consumed almost 1.7 million fewer kilowatt-hours and spent $474,000 less than was budgeted for energy costs according to Inside Higher Ed. “It reported a 50 percent reduction in the number of sick hours used by its employees and noted a 44 percent reduction in annual staff turnover, when comparing this fiscal year to last.” “I wouldn’t have a problem with a 4-day week,” said Senior ECT major, Joseph Davis. “Since I don’t drive, the gas issue doesn’t affect me. But I would take advantage and use Friday as a day for personal growth and study. I would enjoy it.”

Delta College, a two-year institution in Michigan, tried the four-day workweek. Faculty and staff thought it a simple way for the college to reduce its carbon emissions and save on utility costs. “I think it would be better,” said senior JOMC major, Ebony Williams. “I drive back and forth to campus four times a day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday because of the gap in my schedule. Gas is going down, but for how much longer?” Williams said. “[A four day week means] time to yourself and I would be in my house on Friday.

Saturday is your only real day off because Sunday your doing homework and getting ready for Monday. With an extra day you can get stuff done and have more leisure time. My only concern would be how much longer classes would be. How would that work?” Other institutions such as Northwest Florida State attempted the four-day workweek to help save employees and students save gas. The attempt was made for eight weeks this summer.

“Though students probably did not notice much difference this summer, as the university offers few Friday classes, the institution’s support staff appreciated the three-day weekend,” said Jill White, the college’s vice president.

But with every positive, there’s a negative. A four-day workweek brings about longer hours and a staggered workload. Under normal circumstances, university offices are open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. However under the four-day schedule, hours are from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

According to White, “the smaller summer enrollment made a four-day workweek practical,” but she also noted that it would not be possible to provide classroom space for the college’s full enrollment with such a schedule during the fall and spring semesters.

Additionally, White noted that a few faculty members with younger children expressed concerns about the longer hours resulting from the pilot program. It was more difficult for employees to find child support and day care centers that would accommodate their late working schedules.Another issue is efficiently serving the students. Shutting down student services on Fridays could have negative consequences. Administrators argue that colleges and universities should not forget the primary mission to serve students.

President Randal Webb of Northwestern State admits to Inside Higher Ed that he would prefer keeping the regular five-day schedule. “I don’t want to cast aspersions on the four-day workweek, but that does not always work because you don’t serve your clientele, in my opinion. I much prefer the five-day workweek and allowing, in certain circumstances, some staff to work a four-day week.”

So with a lot of tweaking still to be made, the four-day notion is still very much in an experimental phase. Many accommodations and schedule shifts will have to be made and figured out to make the idea a working possibility among schools.

  • Michael Jones