ATHENS, Texas (KETK) — Across Texas, four-day school weeks have become popular, especially for schools serving rural areas. In fact, more than 40 districts currently go by this new schedule, and 12 of them are right here in East Texas.
“Teachers, you know they work from 7:40 to 4:30 on Monday through Thursday, our students are scheduled from 7:45 to 4 o’clock,” New Summerfield Superintendent Joe Brannen said.
Brannen said the biggest difference is a longer school day, but they still get the same holidays, in-service days and other seasonal breaks.
“Any holiday that all the other schools are out on, we’re out on,” Brannen said.
This means fewer days at school during the year. Some question how this works with state funding and attendance requirements.
“Now schools are required to be in school a certain number of minutes as opposed to days,” Brannen said.
For parents, the biggest concerns of a shorter school week are meals and child care.
When Athens ISD decided to change its calendar in 2019, they took both concerns into consideration.
“We initially offered breakfast and lunch every Friday,” Athens ISD Superintendent Dr. Janie Sims said.
Sims says she also worked with local daycares.
“Eventually what we have found is both of those just became non-issues for us, they just worked themselves out,” Sims said.
The trend sparked interest with teachers. That’s why Athens ISD decided to try it out for the first time during the 2019-2020 school year.
“It was always about attracting and retaining teachers,” Sims said.
Athens and New Summerfield, like many districts, say they had trouble finding educators and now they don’t have to worry.
“We are completely staffed, no openings and it’s been a benefit for that reason right there,” Brannen said.
Another benefit is student attendance with New Summerfield seeing 2 to 3% more students showing up to school with a four-day school week, meaning more students are in their desks everyday and able to learn more.
“The staff, the teachers, finally feel that they have a weekend with their family,” Sims said.
Plus with one less day each week, both schools say morale is up.
“You know the last couple of years have been a struggle with the pandemic and interruptions with school,” Brannen said.
Still, making the switch has come with challenges.
“UIL had to develop a schedule, especially for us for four-day,” Sims said.
Another change the shortened weeks brought on was for hourly employees. Bus drivers not having routes on the day off became an issue.
“We decided that we would just guarantee them their hours for the week, so they receive the same pay in four days they would have received for five days,” Sims said.
With more schools in East Texas like New Diana, Overton, and Leverett’s Chapel looking to join the trend, Sims shared what she has learned to help those districts.
“I receive, regularly, several emails or phone calls every week,” Sims said.
She added that a four-day week isn’t for everyone, and it will take time to see how it will impact your school and more importantly, students.
“The bigger you are, the more difficult it’s going to be to manage all the moving parts,” Sims said.
School district leaders say they need to be nimble and evolve to keep the best and brightest educators who provide quality education to East Texas children.
Below is a list of East Texas school districts who have approved going to a four-day instructional week:
- Alba Golden
- Apple Springs
- Leverett’s Chapel
- New Boston
- New Diana
- New Summerfield
- Paul Pewitt
- Sulphur Bluff
Below is a list of districts that are considering instituting a four-day school week as of February 2023:
- Leverett’s Chapel