More school districts are shifting to a 4-day week

As many kids head back to school, a growing number of larger districts are moving to a 4-day school week.

▶ Watch Video: More schools switching to 4-day week

When the school bell rings in Independence, Missouri, this year, 14,000 students are trying something new: a four-day week, with Mondays off. And they’re not alone. As kids head back to school this year, a growing number will be returning to a four-day school week. 

Hundreds of districts across the country have moved to adopt the alternative weekly schedule in recent years. CBS News correspondent Bradley Blackburn looked at why some larger school districts are now taking this step — and what it means for teachers, students and families. 

Dale Herl, superintendent of the Independence School District, and his staff have spent months planning for this year’s significant calendar change. His district is the largest in the state to move to a four-day schedule. To comply with state requirements for instructional time, which determines how school calendars are structured, the district will add 35 extra minutes onto each day.

“So the instructional minutes will be almost exactly the same,” Herl explained.

For parents who need childcare on Mondays, the district will offer it for $30 a day — a cost that could strain some families.

“If they weren’t using any care, well, certainly that could be a potential cost that they otherwise would not have,” the superintendent said.

Nearly 900 school districts in the United States currently use a four-day weekly academic schedule. That number rose from 650 districts in 2020 to 876 districts, across 26 states, in 2023. While smaller, rural districts have been more likely to favor the schedule, larger districts are now shortening their school weeks in an effort to recruit and retain teachers. It’s a selling point in an era when schools are facing a national teacher shortage.

“The number of teaching applications that we’ve received have gone up more than four-fold,” Herl said. 

Schools in other parts of the country have noticed similar patterns. In Chico, Texas, where the public school district also announced a shift to four-day academic schedules this year, officials said positions that used to receive five applications were suddenly receiving more than 20, CBS News Texas reported in May.

Aaron Pallas, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, is watching the trend as more schools make the shift. He said “there’s not good evidence on the academic impact of the four-day school week right now,” and argued there are better ways to tackle a teacher shortage.

“The best way is to pay them better,” Pallas said, adding that Missouri “ranks basically last” or “next to last in terms of teacher salaries.”

In Independence, some parents have had concerns about the impact of a shorter week. But as teacher retention becomes an issue that more districts are facing, Herl hopes the scheduling shift will pave the way for broader conversation.

“I think this really needs to lead to a bigger discussion nationwide about, you know, what we are going to do to support the teaching profession,” he said.

In an effort to attract teachers in rural areas, Missouri saw district-wide shifts from five-day to four-day school weeks surge ahead of the 2022 academic year, with roughly 25% of schools moving to the new schedule, according to an online brief by the National Conference of State Legislatures. When the brief was last updated in June, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reported that 144 school districts statewide were operating on a four-day schedule.

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