Why not a 4-day week for City, School District?

In yesterday’s Strib: Workers, employers welcome 4-day week.

Public employers are at the forefront. In Minnesota, cities from Albertville to Zimmerman, counties and schools are making the switch or considering it… Higher energy costs are triggering the change, with employees saving 20 percent of their commuting gas money while building costs drop with less heating, cooling and even toilet paper used when the doors are locked on Friday.

Given the financial problems that our City and School District have/have had/expect to have (as well as the savings to employees who commute) why not seriously consider changing to a four-day week?


  1. Good article, Curt. I would add that the community college I attended had some great teachers. One story is about the fellow who Used to be an Illinois Institute of Technology, IIT (the real MIT of the Midwest, not that other ITT or phonies) prof, and who literally got kicked out of IIT for making too much ball lightning in the lab which was directly under the President’s Office. Hahaha. He was an excellent teacher though and the school was lucky to have him. Oh, ball lightning can get pretty noisy, bang, bang and all of that kind of thing.

    In Chicago, there is a vocation school called Chicago Vocational School, CVS on the southeast side where all the old steel mills used to be. It is a huge school physically, it took up like 40 acres. They taught auto, building, carpentry, everything like that. It was very popular…here you go… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Vocational_Career_Academy

    September 19, 2008
  2. Holly Cairns said:

    Peter said:

    I am sure smaller class would help, but I don’t thing that this is the source of the problem.
    In my opinion a curriculum overload, lack of accountability and discipline are more important issues.

    Curriculum overload, maybe. My idea is to take 10th grade US history and teach it in units: Governments and the choices we had to choose from as a new country, wars and strategy, social reform and uprising, economic factors, and a final unit which puts things in order, chronologically. But I bet it would take just as long as how we do it, now. Too much civil war, that I know. And civil war in 5th grade. And civil war in 7th grade. And in 12th grade (World history).

    But what is this about lack of accountability? We’ve got so many tests now that there is little time to cover the basics. What else is there to measure? How each dollar is spent? I think we can get tha pie chart, now, from the district.

    I don’t think OBE was all that bad, nor was the Grad Standards. That’s a different kind of accountability, but perhaps you aren’t talking about excellence in learning (or you re-teach.) If my Ruth had to prove she learned something to move on, we’d be thrilled. THRILLED.

    And, I wonder if we’ve got a funny notion about community colleges running here in this thread– one that doesn’t reflect typical thinking. My father-in-law taught calculus etc. at a technical college and then later the community college (same place) for 25 years. It seemed to be a great education for a heck of a lot of kids. Nothing to be ashamed about, and I heard there were kids that struggled and triumphed. Not easy curriculum. Smart choice especially if you want to make huge dollars as an electrician…

    September 19, 2008
  3. Peter Millin said:

    Accountability for results both from the teacher and students.
    Northfield is a good school district when compared within MN and the US, but when you compare the level of education to the rest of the industrialized world we are average at best.

    I would say that most of the teachers do a great job, but who polices the teachers? Who holds them accountable for doing their jobs?

    At one point in my career I was teaching in a vocational school. Those students just came out of high school, the lack of basic grammar and the inability of doing simple math in their head was a sad spectacle.

    My grammar as a foreigner was better then 50% of my students?

    What went wrong here? I am baffled and saddened.

    September 21, 2008
  4. Holly Cairns said:


    I don’t know what happened, or what class you taught. That’s too bad. I wonder if all the students at your vocational school were like that, or just the ones in your class?

    I don’t think there is an easy fix to the system. Jumping in with quick fix ideas probably isn’t a good idea.

    just to add to the mix, here’s thoughts:

    Maybe our kids just don’t value their education.

    As a high school teacher, I used to do a “reality check” assignment with all kids (not just the drifters). What if you were told you couldn’t go to school anymore? They all got 100% on that essay, no matter what they said. And then we’d have class discussion about making some kids stay home. The smiles disappeared. So, Maybe we should kick some kids out who don’t want to learn. The rest might get motivated. I see dire consequences with that method, though. Probably better to lead students toward believing they value their own education.

    Maybe our kids just have time management problems.

    I found many kids lack the ability to manage time– they don’t look at the clock and try to figure out “how much time is left before I need to…”. They don’t enjoy planning. They go from space to space, chair to chair, and then think “What? Is that assignment due?” I’m guilty of being a bit of a free spirit, myself, but I’ve learned there are important things to worry about and plan for. Maybe we should have a time management class and teach things like “put the due date on top of the assignment”.

    Maybe our kids have tracked themselves.

    I used to ask students “what kind of student” are you? It’s my theory they track themselves into being “A” students, “B” students, etc. I’d ask the “A” students what they did to prepare for tests and finish basic assignments, and they often did different things than the average “B” student did, etc. There are patterns to student success, and it’s never too late to change patterns, but the earlier the better. Maybe we can hand a list of “A” student patterns out at the start of every year or class we’ll find more success.

    90% percent of how well a student does probably goes back to “effort” instead of “smarts”. There is a variance in “smarts”, but effort can make the difference. I believe that, anyway. Maybe teachers could do more thinking about these things as they write their objectives.

    Anyway, rambling on. But as to the basics? Very important. And more for the kids that could use enhancement and are quick to learn, we should provide that, too.

    September 22, 2008
  5. Holly Cairns said:

    So, teachers and students have a lot to do in the average week. Will longer classes/ days help the learning process? I don’t think so. Brain overload.

    But heating costs will be troublesome this year. The McCray district will save a lot of money by going to the four day… but is it worth it? Maybe so, if the district would “bust” if they didn’t save money, somehow…. better to provide some education than have the state control the district… or what…

    September 22, 2008
  6. One of the major things I have noted about my Catholic school days and my public school days is the lack of memory training in the latter. In case you forgot and don’t want to make the effort to re-read the first sentence, now what was I talking about, oh yeah, those public schools don’t put much emphasis on developing the students’ memories.

    In fourth grade, we spent an hour every morning going over multiplication and division tables out loud. To this day, I can tell you what 8×8 is or 12×12 or 9×7, or 132 divided by 11 is, without thinking a second. Once you have developed a memory by rote, you accomplish two things, you have put facts or knowledge into your mind, and you have strengthened the muscles of the brain, ie, the neuro pathways, that will last for a long time, depending on how deep you have made the pathways and if you use your math or other skills over time.

    Are schools doing this type of work, or do the kids complain too much that they have done that before? Maybe this generation of kids learn by not paying that much attention to something.

    September 22, 2008
  7. Oh, I also want to say that kids around the globe are attending school more than 9 or 10 months a year, and seeing as how American kids don’t do summer farm work all that much, maybe we should consider more class time than less, if we are to compete on a global scale.

    September 22, 2008
  8. Holly Cairns said:

    Memorization? Ack! Tricks to help memorization? Great!

    School throughout the year… good idea. I wonder how much that would cost.

    September 22, 2008
  9. Holly, what kind of tricks are you talking about? Like if I want to remember your name, I think of the fact that ‘deer don’t eat holly, and they are not carnivores’?

    September 22, 2008
  10. Holly Cairns said:

    Yep, “mnemonic device.” Athough your deer in the woods idea has me thinking “What?” Maybe it’s better for me if you don’t explain.

    Anyway, the four day week would not help learning, I would think. Trying to bring it back on topic.

    September 22, 2008
  11. Patrick Enders said:

    At the Carleton College forum tonight, Paul Hager brought up the possibility of a four-day week for city government. Didn’t endorse it, but mentioned it as one of many things that should be considered in a very tight budget year.

    October 7, 2008
  12. Bruce Wiskus said:

    I for one would like to look into year round schools before we build anymore facilities.

    I worked with a person from a Denver area suburb that did year round school and it was sounded like a sound plan. Kids would go 3 months have 1 month of and repeat the cycle. The kids were broken up into 4 groups. Three would be in school and one would be on vacation every month. This cut the needs for additional facilities, a large savings.

    Like anything there are pros and cons on both sides, but I would like to see it looked at.

    October 8, 2008
  13. Peter Millin said:

    We need to look at the growth projections for this area before we decide on new buildings.
    I expect to see a slow down of people moving to Northfield in the near future. Given what the costs of energy are I doubt a lot of people would move that far away from MSP. Most of the growth would come from people that are able to make a living within a closer radius.

    Having said that we should look at our real needs for spending on infrastructure and decide what our priorities should be. We need to look at the bigger picture here.
    Do we really need to expand Rt. 19 ? Do we need another access road to 35?
    How about temporary trailers?
    Are there other buildings that could be revamped to catch some of the overflow of students?

    Certainly Bruce’s idea demands a closer examination.

    As a nation we have a large deficit and most of the middle class is taxed enough already. Tough times demand tough measures, sacrifice and creative thinking.

    October 8, 2008

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