During the recession of 2008, spending on K–12 schools in Intermountain West states grew very little, if at all. Schools, however, have faced continuing cost increases, and rural schools in places with fixed or declining enrollment have felt these changes acutely.
Seeking to cut costs, rural communities in Colorado and Oregon decided to adopt an idea that has been around for decades: eliminating one day of school each week. The idea has now spread to Idaho, Utah, and Montana. The recession has eased, but adoption of the four-day week has accelerated in Idaho.
With this as background, the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho started a quick turnaround project to examine the experience of Idaho communities that had moved to— or considered and not adopted—the four-day week. In early 2015 we interviewed district and school leaders in 20 Idaho districts, and followed our informants’ recommendations to talk with leaders from a few Oregon and Arizona districts. We found that cost savings from the four-day school week remain elusive, and the educational consequences of this approach are essentially unknown.