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By Barnes Crystal

How a shorter school day affects students

When considering the effects of shortened school days and a shortened school year, the obvious reaction given by many students would be a relief. Over the past few decades, school requirements have become increasingly difficult, demanding more of students and teachers alike as educational standards have changed.

While a shortened school day can bring about the advantage of more free time and even increased hours to study, there are distinct disadvantages brought on by the lack of classtime.

Why there are shorter school days

Many students and families prefer a shorter school day. Some school districts are even considering if the advantages of shorter classroom time outweigh any disadvantages.

Shorter school days allow students to find respite and devote additional time to meaningful activities, such as hanging out with friends and family or pursuing a passion hobby. More time also allows students extra time to study, seek tutoring and catch up with assignments should they fall behind.

On the district end, fewer classroom hours can put more money in their pockets through reduced utility costs or even renting out space to outside organizations and community members.

Below, we share the advantages and disadvantages of a shorter school day to help students, families and districts decide if choosing this option can benefit them.

Advantages of a shorter school day for students

The value of shorter school days varies for different school districts, even students and families. When considering a school for your student, decide how essential classroom hours are and visit schools of interest to learn how they manage curricula and classtime.

With short school days, students can devote a fair share of time to other meaningful areas in their life, such as socializing and simply being a kid. They can explore and discover various hobbies and interests, maintain their stress levels and get more sleep. Many recommend that teens get at least eight hours of sleep to feel well rested and alert for the next day. Adequate sleep alone can improve their relationships with others, including teachers, and make them more receptive to learning.

Extracurricular activities play a significant part in enriching the educational experience. Shorter school days allow students to engage in productive activities outside the school without feeling stressed and overwhelmed due to limited time. Activities such as sports, employment, internships and even volunteering can lead to various career opportunities after graduation.

Longer school days can be mentally draining for a student, especially if there are other concerns they must take care of after school. The more hours a student sits in the classroom, the less instruction they retain. They may hear the teacher but not remember what they said. Shorter classroom hours increase students’ interest in learning because the information they receive comes to them in small targeted amounts.

Longer school days can cause many students to become restless and unresponsive to instruction and learning. Schools with longer days tend to spend significant time managing student productivity. With shorter days, students are unlikely to lose focus or become preoccupied over the last approaching hour. Time will pass quickly for them as they focus on the shorter time devoted to engaging a targeted curriculum.

students learning new material

Disadvantages of shortened school days

One disadvantage stems from the simple fact that many states are required to provide a set number of instructional hours per year. If this number falls short, then it would become necessary to shorten vacation days or even increase the length of the school year. Such a practice would extend the average school year by several days in order to compensate for shorter classtimes.

There would also be the issue of reduced lecture time. This would include lab classes that often deal with hands-on learning and require the necessary lecture that accompanies the more physical aspect of the class. Many classes dealing with this type of tandem learning would suffer greatly from a reduced lecture time. Given that many such classes require a setup and breakdown period, the level of instruction and time allotted would be far too little in relation to what is required.

The time spent on extracurricular activities would be seen as an advantage at first, as students could engage more fully in sports, community service and even internships. But this brings back the initial problem of a decided lack of education stemming from the detrimental effects to lecture time. If students are not given the proper tools to excel, then their extracurricular activities could suffer as well. Athletes needing a 2.0 GPA or better to compete could be at a loss as the lack of instruction affects their test scores and homework assignments. Community service means very little on a college resume without the necessary GPA to back it up. Even internships might be less possible if the student has a track record lacking for want of proper instruction.

Another disadvantage hidden away as an advantage is the money that schools could save by shortening the school day. The lowered cost of utilities alone would more than increase the savings of most schools. Teachers who work less earn less pay as well, meaning another decrease in savings is experienced as educators are forced to accept less. This is the truly unfortunate part, as teachers like all working professionals will often seek out jobs that pay without forcing them to take a pay cut. While schools could save money in this manner, they would likely save very little, as they would need to hire more staff if teachers refused to work for lower salaries.

The idea of shortening the school day gains applause from students but concern and disgust from some educators. While there are benefits to be reaped by such a move, the risks are just as great if not greater.

The overall impact shorter school days have on students

The consensus is that shorter school days benefit students. Students have a lot going on in their lives, and with school holding a significant part, it’s crucial every hour counts. With students losing focus due to longer classroom times and teachers having to manage them, that time is better spent on them engaging in stimulating activities beyond school.

With all the concerns a student has, shorter days can alleviate stress and leave additional room at the end of the day for them to recharge. More time for students can increase educational success since they will have better emotional control and cognitive functioning.

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