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Schools across Iowa are beginning to look at four-day school weeks to combat a shortage of teachers. According to Diagonal Community Schools superintendent, Larry McNutt, the concept of a four-day school week is picking up steam.
At the December 20 school board meeting, superintendent McNutt reported that Lamoni and Central Decatur school districts are studying the concept.
East Union school district is also exploring the idea as their superintendent is shared with Murray school district.
Murray Community Schools was the latest district to undergo this change. They started last fall with four-day weeks, and added fifteen minutes to each school day. Mormon Trail and Moulton-Udell also follow these schedules as well.
In order to meet state requirements, each school day is slightly longer, but the instructional week is shorter. School districts and accredited nonpublic schools are required to choose between 180 days or 1,080 hours of instruction according to Iowa Code.
“Maybe we look at it as a student attraction,” questioned board member J.P. Whittington.
School business official Rhiannon Tessum noted “A lot of schools in northern MO are moving to it.”
Tessum shares her time between Diagonal and East Union school districts.
“In five years, I expect just as many schools will be on a four-day week as a five-day week,” said superintendent McNutt.
The Waco Community School District was the first district in Iowa to adopt a four-day schedule in the fall of 2013.
The Cardinal Community School District switched in November of 2022, becoming the fourth school in Iowa to move to the four-day schedule.
The Saydel Community School District is also exploring the idea of a shortened school week after the Saydel Calendar Committee brought the idea to the school board last year.
Driven by a desire to recruit and retain teachers, as well as a way to reduce the expenses for the year, perceived benefits include:
- Improved recruiting and retention of staff and students,
- Increased open enrollment,
- Improving culture and climate,
- Reducing stress for students and staff,
- Improved attendance,
- Improved learning conditions.
Concerns about the four-day school week include meeting daycare needs, making sure food needs are met and coordinating school activity schedules.
Iowa is not the only state where four-day school weeks are being explored. Several states including Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Oregon have introduced four-day school weeks.
Families and students reported highly valuing the extra time that the four-day school week allowed them to spend together. Overall, stakeholders experienced high levels of satisfaction with the four-day week.
However, a comparison of English language arts and math test scores showed that students on the four-day school week have lower scores, over time, when compared with peers on a five-day schedule. Although students still saw growth, achievement did not increase as fast in the four-day districts after the adoption of the shortened week as compared with similar five-day districts.