(NewsNation) — Missouri’s largest school district is now one of nearly 900 districts across 26 states that are transitioning to, or are already using, a four-day schedule in order to tackle teacher shortages.
A shift to this kind of flex schedule has been prevalent in rural areas, but the trend is now expanding.
“We are taking a very different approach, this was not about saving money — it’s actually going to cost more — this was about recruiting and retaining the very best staff,” said Dr. Dale Herl, superintendent of the Independence, Missouri, school district.
Herl says while other school districts need to save money, he is focused on saving his staff.
Students in the Independence School District will now have a more flexible schedule with the majority of academic weeks beginning on Tuesdays. Occasionally, there will be five-day school weeks.
Though some are worried that a four-day week will result in a loss of instructional time, Herl says this is not the case.
“We are not losing any instructional minutes, we are adding 35 minutes,” Herl told NewsNation. “People hear about a four-day week, and they think we are losing 20%, but that’s really not the case.“
Herl says one of the glaring issues is that teachers and staff don’t get paid enough.
“If we as a nation, or the state of Missouri, want to have the very best teachers and classified staff within our classrooms, we’re going to have to pay them to come,” Herl said. “I’m going beyond talking about teachers. I’m talking about bus divers, nutrition service workers, custodians. We are at a crossroads in public education about the services that parents want and expect, but also the cost of providing those.”
For parents, the issue of child care on Mondays is a significant concern.
Herl says a myriad of options will be available to those who need it, including a $30-a-day child care program as well as educational programs for those who need additional support after learning loss.
Additionally, high school students can now partner with nearby colleges to earn dual credit upon graduation.
“We looked at all the comments we got from parents and tried to do everything we could to accommodate both in the structure of the day and pricing of the service,” Herl said.
Now, teacher applications are flooding into the Independence School District, Herl tells NewsNation, saying, “The number of teacher applications we had for this school year was more than fourfold as it was the previous year.”