HomeOperationsGrowing Trend in Public Education: Four Day School Weeks

Growing Trend in Public Education: Four Day School Weeks

Four-day school weeks are gaining popularity nationwide to save money and recruit new teachers. In fact, a PBS News article in September reported that nearly 900 school districts operate on a four-day schedule.

Education Week ties the growing trend to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the goal of boosting recruitment and retention. Colorado has nearly two-thirds of its school districts running on a shortened schedule. According to an article by KXAN, more than 86 districts in Texas have made the switch.

One of the most recent is Sanger Independent School District located north of Fort Worth. The district announced at the end of last month that it is switching to a four-day school week in October in the hope of recruiting more teachers. A local news article added that Sanger ISD will extend its school days by 35 minutes on Mondays through Thursdays and is working to provide free or affordable childcare for elementary school students on Fridays when school is not in session.

Meanwhile, a quarter of Missouri districts have also favored and turned to the four-day school week. One of those is Independence School District (ISD), which serves more than 14,000 students across 30 schools and started the shortened schedule this school year.

A spokesperson for the district told School Transportation News that ISD leadership spent time in Zoom meetings and on the phone with other public school districts around the country that have already made the switch, in addition to pouring over existing research and conducting their own before presenting it to the board.

“We began these discussions as a way to recruit and retain quality educators and staff by offering a unique schedule that allows for work-life balance, as well as opportunities to earn extra income on what we call our fifth-day, the day school is not in session (Mondays),” said Megan Murphy, director of public relations for ISD.

She added that on Mondays, the district offers a range of educational and extracurricular activities as well as childcare from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. “ISD has also seen a positive impact on our student and teacher attendance (both up), as well as a decrease in the number of student discipline issues we have had so far this school year,” Murphy said.

Murphy explained that despite the district moving to a four-day school week, student instructional time could not be impacted. Missouri requires 522 hours each school year for kindergartners and 1,044 hours for grades one through 12.

While the number of student attendance days shifted from 170 to 155, she said ISD lengthened the Tuesday through Friday school days by 35 minutes, “which are spread to scale across instructional time, passing time, [and] lunch/recess,” she shared, adding that teachers and staff are now offered professional development days on Monday.

“ISD students attend school for significantly more instructional hours than the state requirement of 1,044 hours,” she continued. “While there might be slight fluctuations down to the minutes, the overall instructional time our students receive is the same. The ISD Special Services team has always been committed to fostering a nurturing and inclusive educational environment, providing tailored support and individualized education plans (IEPs) for students with diverse learning needs. These standards have not changed with our transition to a four-day school week.”

In terms of transportation specifically, Daryl Huddleston, director of transportation for ISD, said his department was involved during the entire process from an information and input standpoint. He shared that Superintendent Dr, Dale Herl was transparent even before the decision was made by engaging with bus drivers to show them how they would be impacted.

“A couple of things I think are important to know is that [bus drivers] are considered to be a salary position as far as the way it’s paid,” he explained. “So, they’re on a 12-month government contract. But the superintendent was very, very careful to make sure that nobody lost money during this process. Because obviously they’re working less days, so we went from 170 days that we transport students for the regular school year down to 155 days.”

To compensate for this, he said five professional development days were added to driver calendars, and they received a “pretty significant” increase in their hourly rates, resulting in them getting paid slightly more than before.

He added that while drivers are on the same four-day schedule as the schools, there are options to work additional hours transporting students to enrichment programs and athletic events.

“It’s very positive,” Huddleston said overall of the switch. “I certainly believe that [bus drivers] enjoy that opportunity to have one less day per week. I haven’t really experienced any necessarily negative feedback through this whole process. It’s been overall a pretty easy transition.”

He added that the first year of the new schedule has resulted in periodic challenges, but the staff is overcoming them and have experienced positive change. He added that while he can’t speak on the impact the four-day school week has had on recruitment, he said the district has increased its staffing levels over the last year.

“If I could echo anything in this process as we’ve gone through it, we certainly have been given the opportunity to kind of work through issues along the way with great support from really everybody through this process,” Huddleston concluded. “It’s one thing that’s always consistent in businesses: change. So, this was a new experience, but overall, I think a very positive experience from a transportation standpoint.”

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