Missouri School Board Votes to Switch to 4-Day Week

Shortage of teachers and other staffers drives change
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 14, 2022 4:51 PM CST
Short-Staffed School District Moves to 4-Day Week
A billboard on Interstate 70 near Lawrence, Kan., advertises teaching jobs in the Independence, Missouri, school district in 2015.   (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

A Missouri school board voted Tuesday to put the district on a four-day week next fall, a move becoming more common nationally. Independence Superintendent Dale Herl said the impetus is a staffing shortage, ABC News reports. "If you look across the country, there is a significant teacher shortage, but it even goes beyond teachers as well," Herl told ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday. "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." More than 14,000 K-12 students would be affected; schedules will not change for early education programs.

School days will be 35 minutes longer, and students and some staff members will be off Mondays, per KMBC. The district plans to offer an optional fifth day of instruction for students in eighth grade or below. Only one of the 142 school districts in Missouri that has tried a four-day week has switched back; the short week now is allowed in 25 states. Research has shown there's no educational difference as long as total classroom time is unchanged. So far, teachers have been more receptive to the change than parents, Herl said, adding that other districts have found the shorter week popular once everyone got used to it.

Applications for teaching and staff jobs have been falling in the Independence district, which sets teachers' starting pay at $41,150 and maxes out for experienced teachers at $81,713. Herl said a combination of factors is behind the teacher shortage, including the fact that the state's universities are producing fewer education graduates. "It's everything from compensation to work-life balance to the amount of time it takes to be a teacher," he said. The district is counting on the change to make a difference, and there are already signs of that. Since school officials began discussing a four-day week, Herl said, applications have risen nearly 40% over last year. (More four-day week stories.)

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