'The impetus behind it was to attract and retain staff,' the superintendent said.
While many schools in the country are discussing a 4-day work week for their teachers, a Missouri school took the leap and has decided to go for a four-day school week beginning in fall 2023. According to Superintendent Dr. Dale Herl, this is the first time Independence School District will be making this big change. "The impetus behind it was to attract and retain staff," said Herl, as reported by GoodMorningAmerica.
The discussions regarding the switch began in August. One of the major reasons to move to a 4-day work week is the "significant teacher shortage," he said. Herl said that it is not only the teachers. "There's a shortage for individuals who can drive buses, paraprofessionals, so it's not just about trying to fill teaching positions but certainly that's something that we're very focused upon," Herl said. There have been lesser applications for teaching and staff positions in the last few years, mainly in special education and STEM fields, according to Herl. The school pays teachers starting at $41,150 and it goes up to $81,713 for a veteran teacher.
According to the data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average salary for a public elementary or high school teacher has reduced by about 5% between 1969 and 2020, and more than 6# between 2009 and 2020. However, he believes that they are many other reasons for fewer job applications. "I think it's a combination of things. It's everything from compensation to work-life balance to the amount of time it takes to be a teacher," Herl said. He added that there have been lesser education students who graduated from Missouri universities.
Herl said that once the discussion began they also looked at the applications that were coming in. The superintendent said, "Since the discussions started with the school board regarding a four-day week, we looked at the applicants that we've received, and our applications are up almost 40% compared to the same time last year." Reportedly, the new 4-day week schedule will apply to more than 14,000 K-2 students in Independence School District. However, a suburban district east of Kansas City and students in early education programs will not be switching to this schedule.
Moreover, there have been mixed reactions from teachers and parents. "The reception has been mixed. … It's something new, so I think it will be something that we will continue to get information out to our families," Herl said. "As we've talked to a number of school districts in the United States that have gone to a four-day week, and what they expressed to us is there will be a lot of people that are very nervous about this but their experience was, once they got into the four-day week, it was very successful and the community enjoyed it."
More local schools in multiple states have been adopting this new schedule due to the national teacher and staff shortage that has been happening in the last few years.
With that said, 25% of schools have had to move to a 4 day work week because of the lack of funding in MO. Missouri is 49th in school funding and 50th in teacher pay and we do our best to make Mississippi look as good which isn’t saying much.— Rachel 🇺🇦 🇺🇸 (@rachelroyalkc) March 28, 2022
In May, another school called the Mineral Wells Independent School District decided to switch to a four-day work week from the 2022-2023 school year. The decision came after many teachers started to leave to work in neighboring districts that were having 4-day weeks, according to Texas Tribune. David Tarver, assistant superintendent of Mineral Wells ISD said, “We started losing teachers to that four-day school week, regardless of what we paid." “That was a big eye-opener.”