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How schools are succeeding with a 4-day week

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Posted at 12:47 PM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 17:07:40-04

HENDERSON, Colo.  — Support for the four-day workweek is starting to grow in workplaces across the country, but many school districts are switching to this model too.

The pandemic inspired more schools nationwide to make the switch—both to save money on transportation and attract teachers during a drastic teacher shortage.

However, some districts are finding more success with this than others. Colorado is the leading state in the nation for several districts, with at least one school participating in the four-day week, and schools there have found high levels of success.

At Prairie View High School in Henderson, school is only Tuesday through Friday each week.

“We're attending the same amount of instructional hours that we were on the five-day week. We just extended the day for four days a week,” explained Chris Fiedler, the Superintendent for the 27J School district.

Superintendent Fielder says the 4-day week was initially a move to attract teachers to his district, and it’s worked. His district implemented the 4-day week four years ago. The pandemic only reinforced how useful this model can be.

“We continue to fill our positions even though we pay far less than some of our, most of our neighbors,” said Fiedler.

Teachers Jean Schneider and Kim Roberts say the four-day week is a big reason they stay at Prairie View High School.

“I enjoy my job because I do see a difference. I do see that making a difference with my students more than I think I did before,” said Roberts, who teaches special education.

“When I come in to teach on Tuesday, I am far more ready than I ever was on a Monday,” said Schneider. “I also think my students are far more prepared for me on Tuesday, which makes teaching easier as well.”

It wasn’t an easy change for everyone, especially in the beginning.

“There was a huge adjustment, and I remember many students, ‘Oh, miss, I am so tired. I just can't get through this. They're giving us too much homework,’” said Roberts.

Yet, within a few months, students acclimated.

Garcia, a senior at Prairie View, said the four-day week helped him participate in clubs he wouldn’t have otherwise had time for.

“It's good to have like that whole day to work on all of our robotics activities,” said Daniel Garcia. “It relieves a little bit of the stress, and it gives you a day.”

The Brookings Institution found that pre-pandemic 662 districts used the schedule in 24 states, increasing over 600% in the last two decades. Researchers are watching that number continue to rise in states like Texas, Colorado, and Montana.

But, the question is: does a four-day school week work?

It can increase student attendance, help battle the teacher shortage by retaining teachers, and save districts some money on transportation. Still, Fiedler points out that the savings on a vehicle are not significant enough to merit the switch alone.

Some districts in Oregon and Oklahoma have found that students fell behind with the four-day week. One key difference in some districts in those two states: they cut school hours per week—not making each of the four days longer.

But in this Colorado school, educational outcomes are improving.

“Our graduation rate has improved every year for four consecutive years since we went to a four-day week,” said Fiedler.

This district also added extra student learning support to ensure students don’t fall behind. They believe adjusting how they get students to graduation and the four-day school week boost morale and achievement alike.

They hope other schools will look to them as an example—one that can bring education into an era of new, more flexible learning.