EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

Is a four-day school week the answer to teacher shortage?

Aug 15, 2023, 6:30 PM | Updated: Aug 16, 2023, 2:03 pm

four-day school week...

Students walk to their buses following school at Rose Springs Elementary in Erda, Tooele County, on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. Photo credit: Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY —  The weekend starts on Thursdays for about 800 school districts nationwide, according to News Nation. So is the four-day school week the answer to Utah’s teacher shortage? Or does it solve one problem yet create others?

The schedule is saving money for rural schools in the Tooele School District and helping to retain teachers, says its district superintendent, Mark Ernst. He joins Dave & Dujanovic to discuss what a four-day school week means for students, teachers and parents.

Ernst said the four-day schedule includes schools in Dugway, Ibapah, Vernon and Wendover.

He said the district is saving money by idling its bus fleet serving rural schools one day a week.

And it’s truly a four-day school week for teachers, no grading papers or other school work on the extra day off, he said, adding administrators sometimes work remotely on that day. 

Good for rural but not for cities

Ernst said it’s feasible to move the whole district to the four-day schedule but the the State Office of Education has no “appetite” to transition the more urban areas away from their traditional five-day school week.

Recruiting tool

The district superintendent said another boost to the four-day school week is teachers like it and schools are seeing less turnover. He said the better retention numbers may also be due to an increase in salary for educators who work in rural schools.

Loss of learning?

It’s taken time for teachers to adjust to the new schedule, specifically how to teach the same amount of material in a shorter length of time, but Ernst said the teachers are mastering the four-day school schedule and the students are learning more.

Related reading:

Amid nationwide teacher shortage, Weber School District turns its focus to retention

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Is a four-day school week the answer to teacher shortage?