Three rural southwest Missouri school districts have adopted a four-day school week in an attempt to improve attendance, save money, and attract and retain teachers, according to The Joplin Globe.
More than 60 percent of school districts in Missouri are small and rural, which means they are at least several miles from the nearest urban area and have fewer than about 530 students, and nearly 30 percent of the state’s students attend schools in those districts. Rural schools in Missouri, like many across the country, struggle to attract and retain teachers. A report released last year found that poor and rural schools in the state have more inexperienced teachers than wealthier, urban schools.
In the Miller R-II School District, Superintendent Tracey Hankins said the four-day week is an attempt to save money, which could ultimately be used to raise teacher salaries. “We see teachers who come and stay a few years and leave for other districts because those districts pay more,” Hankins told the Joplin Globe.
Meanwhile, the Stockton school district said that the new schedule will give students and teachers a three-day weekend, but teachers will use the day off for professional development twice a month. And the third district, Pierce City R-VI, is hoping that the long weekends will be attractive to teachers.
“We’re never going to set the world on fire with teacher pay, so we’re constantly looking at what else can we do to keep our teachers here,” said Superintendent Russ Moreland in the article.
Nationwide, at least 120 school districts in 21 states operate on a four-day week, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). For small, rural school districts, the schedule can reduce transportation costs and school operating expenses.
However, some districts have been drawn to the four-day week for other reasons. In 2013, several rural districts reported that four-day weeks allow their teachers to return to work more refreshed and also provide more time for lesson planning and professional development. One district in rural Iowa switched to a four-day week so they could provide remedial, enrichment, or college-level classes to students every other Friday.
Some research has found that the shortened week may not impact academics, but could curb student dropout rates and discipline referrals. Some opponents of shortened school weeks say that finding childcare can be challenging for working parents, and cost-saving can be minimal.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.