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Missouri educators approve of four-day school weeks


As roughly 30% of Missouri school districts have switched to four-day school weeks, a lawmaker aims to incentivize schools to keep students in class five days a week. However, some Missouri educators don't think the incentive in the bill is greater than the benefits of four-day school weeks.

A bill introduced in the Missouri Senate aims to encourage schools to be in session five days a week. This comes as more and more Missouri schools make the switch to a four-day school week as a means to save money and recruit more teachers.

Senate Bill 784, introduced by Sen. Doug Beck (D-Affton), would require a switch to four-day school weeks to be approved by the voters in that school district. Other lawmakers have filed similar bills.

However, the bill would provide several bonuses to schools in session for five days a week. Those bonuses include letting schools establish their opening date and giving them additional state funds for teacher salaries.

Todd Fuller, with the Missouri State Teachers Association, said four-day school weeks are popular with teachers.

"There have only been one, maybe two districts that have reverted back to the five day school week  after going for day," Fuller said. "The members that we have, the majority of them are happy and like being in a four day school."

Jon Turner has studied the effects of four-day school weeks for the past 10 years. He said most districts are switching as a response to the states difficulty staying competitive in the teacher job market, and the incentives in the bill do not outweigh the benefits of shorter weeks.

"That's not going to be the incentive that they need in order to keep teachers in these school districts," Jon Turner said. "Again, I want to emphasize is that schools are not doing this because they want to go to a four-day school week. This is a response to a really tight, challenging job market  and low funding of schools in Missouri."

Mid-Missouri districts implementing four-day weeks

Several Mid-Missouri school districts have switched to four-day school weeks, including North Callaway, Harrisburg and Hallsville.

The Hallsville School District in Mid-Missouri switched to four-day school weeks for the 2020-2021 school year.

The district cites four reasons for the switch to a four-day school week on its website:

  • Recruiting and retaining quality staff
  • Improved attendance during the four school days
  • Providing time for staff collaboration in preparing for high-quality instruction
  • Increased quality time for families

Recruiting and retaining staff is a common reason school districts in Missouri choose to switch. Missouri struggles with teacher retention and recruitment while it continues to have one of the lowest starting teacher salaries in the country.

Hallsville teacher and parent Chelsea Otten said she's appreciative of her school district for making an effort to recruit and retain teachers. Otten said the schedule gives her the flexibility to care for her aging family members.

"I believe it is working, based on the talented colleagues who have chosen to join Hallsville's teaching staff in the last couple of years," Otten said. "Putting skilled teachers in front of the classroom is essential for student success. This is why I choose Hallsville as my teaching home, as well as where I send my own children to school."

Retired teacher and current Hallsville School Board member Shaunna Turner said the four-day school week works for her family.

"Since our district does not have financial income from businesses, our district needs to be creative in how we can help our staff as they help our students," Shaunna Turner said. "As our district continues to collect data we will be monitoring what future changes will be needed."

Academic impacts

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently released a study on the effects of a four-day school week. The study concludes that "overall, four-day school week was neither helpful nor harmful for academic achievement or building growth in Missouri."

The study compared school districts that switched to four-day school weeks to those that did not. It found districts that switched are more likely to be rural school districts with a high number of students on free-or-reduced-price lunch programs and less likely to have a high number of students in gifted programs.

The study did not find a correlation between those factors and the switch to a four-day week, just that schools had those factors in common.

The study notes that four-day school weeks lead to less instructional time for students, which could have different effects especially when comparing rural and urban school districts.

"As long as you maintain the same number of instructional hours, which school districts in Missouri do when they transition to the four-day week,  there is little to no academic impact on the decision," Jon Turner said.

Article Topic Follows: Education

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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