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The Four-Day School Week: A New Missouri Trend

 

Miller, Missouri and Pierce City, Missouri schools will move to a four-day school week, beginning in the 2015-16 school year, and a third district in Stockton, Missouri is weighing the possibility of a four-day week.

Why a Four-Day Week?

Pierce City Superintendent Russ Moreland says that the shortened school week “provides numerous benefits to the district both in the short and long term.” (Source)

Specifically, those benefits include district cost savings, an expected improvement in student engagement, and better recruitment and retention of great teachers. Miller schools expects to save as much as $175,000 per year because of the shortened school week.

Substitute teachers will be in lower demand in four-day districts, contributing to the district’s cost savings. The four-day school week leaves Mondays available for teacher trainings or in-service, allowing teachers to manage professional development without missing school.

Miller Superintendent Tracey Hankins told the Springfield News-Leader that teachers are ready for the change. “The teachers have expressed excitement for the opportunity to allow students additional time to complete projects and have deep discussions and lessons during one complete instructional time,” she told the paper. (Source)

What About Childcare?

Teachers may be ready for the change, and the school board may be practicing good financial stewardship by adopting a four-day week, but what does the shortened school week mean for children with two working parents? Childcare is one of the main concerns of parents living in districts that have adopted a four-day workweek.

Pierce City Schools directly addressed childcare in a Q&A on its website, saying that other districts operating on a four-day school week identified childcare as “a non-issue”. Parents, according to Pierce City Schools, are already accustomed to managing childcare on early out days and other days when school is not in session. The shift to a four-day week wouldn’t create a new problem; it would simply increase the scale of an existing circumstance most families have already adapted to.

Is a Four-Day Week Even Legal?

Yes. Missouri law allows four-day school weeks, and it gives districts the choice to structure their school calendar how they see fit. It’s up to the school board, rather than the district administrators, to make that call. A majority of the board must vote in favor of the altered school schedule.

Another important point of law is that if a school shifts to a four-day week and student performance suffers, the district is required to change back to a traditional five-day school week the following academic year. (Source)

What About Instructional Time?

Even if children are only in school four days of the week, the law requires that they still attend school for at least 1,044 hours per school year. According to Pierce City Schools, students will actually gain 29.75 hours of classroom instruction annually as a result of their transition to a four-day school week. (Source)

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