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What’s a 5-Day Boarding Program?

I’m always learning something new in this job, which is probably why it’s never boring. Something I learned last year was that once upon a time, when kids went to a full-time boarding school, they stayed there. They didn’t go home on weekends. They only went home at breaks. (Sure I had read Harry Potter, but our school isn’t run that way!)Boarding students at Randolph-Macon Academy Middle School have fun building a gingerbread house.

That’s why there was a distinct difference between a 5-day boarding program and a 7-day boarding program. The 7-day boarders knew they were only going home at Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, and summer. The 5-day boarding program, in contrast, only ran from Sunday evening to Friday evening, so students knew they were going home every weekend.

At some schools, the traditional 7-day boarding “rarely go home” program still exists. At Randolph-Macon Academy, we have always stated that we are a boarding school and we provide room and board for the students seven days per week. However, our program is a flexible 7-day boarding program. Students who are in good standing, both academically and behaviorally, are able to go home nearly any weekend they want, with the exception of a few particular weekends.

Yet…last fall we recognized a need for something a little different. We have noticed in recent years that increased demands on people’s time have made it more difficult for families to run children back and forth to school and events, and still have a good meal on the table for dinner and allow quality homework time.  (I live and work in the same town and find all of that a challenge, so I can’t imagine how much crazier it is for parents who commute a good distance to work, especially if both parents are commuting!) Therefore, we decided to offer a formal five-day boarding program for our middle school students in grades 6-8, to try to provide a solution for parents who were finding that the daily commute was getting longer and longer.  Our goal was for families to benefit from structured, less hectic lives during the week, and be able to enjoy some relaxation and fun together on the weekends.

So far it seems that parents think it is a good solution. As soon as we announced the program last November, two of our day students became five-day boarders, and this year we have six five-day boarders.  The students have a structured study hall time, participate in sports, receive dinner and breakfast, and get more sleep because they’re spending less time driving from home to school and back. (I’m not making that up—one of our five-day boarders told me that the best part is getting more sleep!)

What about you? Does a five-day boarding option seem appealing to you and your middle schooler? Why or why not?