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Pennsylvania Catholic School thrives in 4-day school week

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J-P Mauro - published on 03/01/24

The switch to a four-day school week has kept students at Bishop McCort Catholic High School more productive and less stressed, with more time for studying.

What began as an experiment in a Pennsylvania Catholic school will most likely become the norm after the school found great success in switching to a 4-day school week. Bishop McCort Catholic High School is already 100-days into its new schedule and things are running so smoothly that some classes are ahead of schedule. 

The decision to switch to a 4-day school week was made in May 2023, to be put to the test during the 2023-24 school year. Senior Ella Leitenberger told The Tribune-Democrat that she and her friends had reservations when they first heard the idea. Whereas most high school students might jump at the idea of one fewer school day per week, these Catholic students didn’t seem to think the shortened week was necessary. 

Now, Leitenberger describes the change as “refreshing.” She noted that having an extra day off has been an excellent buffer between school during the week and working on the weekends. It has further allowed the outgoing high-schooler extra time to study for her advanced placement tests.

For its part, the school continues to engage students on the new free day, but with things like educational enrichment, tutoring, and college tours, rather than in-class learning. 

While the new schedule cut down on days in class, McCort was able to reach quotas on time spent learning by lengthening each class by about 10 minutes. While noticeable in the beginning, the students said they don’t even register the extra time now. This adjustment allows McCort to keep their kids in classes for an estimated 50.8 hours per year more than neighboring schools with the same innovative learning program. 

In Pennsylvania, parochial schools must fulfill 990 hours of instruction per year, rather than a specific number of days. It should be noted, however, that the Pennsylvania legislature has passed a law that allows public schools to choose between 990 hours and 180-days in the time since McCort adopted the 4-day school week. This could allow public schools in PA to try the 4-day school week for themselves, although no district has done so yet.

The teachers of McCort have been happy with the change as well. Lorie Regan, a 33-year veteran English teacher, reported happier students who appear to be less burdened by stress. After explaining that a research writing segment that she normally concludes in March had already ended in February, she called the 4-day week “one of the best moves we’ve ever made.”

McCort Principal and Chief Academic Officer Thomas Smith noted that he doesn’t expect every school to see the same results as he has. Still, he hailed the new schedule, suggesting it’s here to stay: 

“What might not be a good fit for some schools has certainly been a great fit for us.”

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