Some Missouri schoolchildren might someday go to school only four days a week.

The House has given preliminary approval to HCS HB 242 , a bill that would give local school districts the option to adopt a four-day school week. Under the bill, a school district could add an hour of instruction to a school day and reduce the number of days from 174 to 142. The number of total hours of instruction a district is required to provide would remain 1,044.

The concept of a four-day school week gained traction in the legislature last year when fuel prices spiked and transportation costs rose dramatically, especially in rural districts.

Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff) sponsors the bill and says that after a similar measure stalled last legislative session, 92 districts contacted him to expressed interest in moving to a four-day school week. Missouri has more than 500 public school districts.

Opponents in the House raise two main objections. They worry that dropping a day from the school week would deprive poor children of a nutritious meal, or two, as some school districts provide breakfast. Another concern expressed was that a switch to a four-day school week would force parents to scramble to find day care for their children for one day a week.

Several representatives with educational backgrounds spoke on the issue, but they weren’t united. Some see the measure as giving more control to local school districts. Others see it as an experiment with unknown risks even though 17 states now provide the option.

Rep. Sara Lampe (D-Springfield) expresses reservations. She says studies indicate that students learn best in the late morning and early afternoon hours and that extending the day would extend the less productive school hours at the expense of the most productive.

The bill needs one more positive vote to move on to the Senate.

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)