School districts around the country re having a tough time attracting and retaining teachers, which has prompted some to take an innovative approach to doing so.
As the 2023-24 school year has already begun for some – and is about to begin for others – more and more districts are deciding to shift over from a five-day week to a four-day week, hoping that will convince more teachers to join them, or remain with them.
There are several districts in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri that have decided to operate only four days per week as part of efforts to address the teacher shortage they have been experiencing. There are other school districts that have decided to push their start times back in an effort to improve the mental health of both teachers and students.
In fact, there were roughly 850 school districts as of early May that had already made the move to a four-day school week or a later start time than they had back in 2019. These moves not only help address the teacher shortages that the districts are experiencing, but the cuts in spending that have been necessary as well.
A parent from Louisiana, Lisa Wilridge, commented on the switch in schedule at her school district to local Fox 15 News station:
“It’s weird because for the simple fact it’s cutting down kids’ learning, not only that it’s costing more out of parents’ pockets for daycare. After activities are gone. It will be hard to get to.”
The Messenger reported recently that Louisiana’s Acadia Parish School District will switch over to a four-day model this September to address its teacher shortage. The district has said they made the decision because teachers have felt either burnt out or overwhelmed.
In Missouri, local news outlet KY3 News reported that nearly one-third of all school districts in the state will move to a four-day schedule, with 161 different school systems deciding to go that route.
Officials from Laclede County R-1 in the state said they decided to switch to the four-day week to try to keep their teachers from completely leaving the profession. As Luke Boyer, who formerly served as the district’s superintendent, said:
“Our biggest reason for doing this is recruitment and retention of our teachers.”
The latest school district in Missouri to make this move was The Independence School District. According to a KY3 News report, the district experienced a huge increase in applicants from educators immediately following the announcement – from just 91 before to in excess of 500 after.
As the superintendent of that district, Dale Herl, commented:
“You look at the material the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has put out, and it says that 62% of teachers in Missouri leave by their fifth year. But, we consistently hear from people who are now interviewing that the four-day work week is something that really appealed to them, and we can’t think of any other reason that’s led to that increase in applications.”