Next fall, the Southwest Livingston County R-I School District will enact a four-day school week instead of the traditional five days. They will join four other CLAA schools, including Tina-Avalon, who also opted for the shorter week.
Southwest Superintendent Burnie Schneiderheinze said that the school was prompted to shorten the week primarily to help attract teachers to the district. “Money was not a driving factor in our decision. The application pool for teaching positions needs to increase. Too many teachers leave,” he explained. Currently, Southwest does not have full-time math or science teachers and the hope is that qualified teachers will be attracted to apply to such positions because of a shorter work week.
According to the National Education Association, there is an “underlying problem with a broken school funding system.” But, Schneiderheinze says, “It has nothing to do with school funding.” He and the Southwest School Board believe more teachers will be attracted to smaller schools like Southwest if they feel supported by increased professional development time afforded by the four-day week.
“An increase in professional development for teachers is huge! Next year we will have 12 full days instead of four half-days like we had this year,” Schneiderheinze said. Students will not miss any class time with early outs for teacher in-service.
Schneiderheinze pointed out that it doesn’t matter that the students will attend four instead of five days when it comes to educational hours. He says it will total the same amount of hours after days are lengthened. All schools in Missouri will now mark their educational time in hours instead of days. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) requires 1044 hours of education, Southwest will The schedule change will not affect support staff as their work hours will also be compressed into four days.
Since Chillicothe is not on the four-day schedule the Southwest vo-tech and agriculture students will still attend those programs in Chillicothe on Mondays. Southwest co-ops with
Tina-Avalon and Hale for football, and with just T.A. on the four day week, the practice schedule on Mondays is dictated by when the Hale athletes can get to practice.
One concern voiced by a number of Southwest patrons was childcare on Fridays. According to a survey conducted by the district, 16% of respondents said it would be an issue. In Colorado where the four day school week in over half their schools has been in use for many years, the lack of structured time for teens was blamed for a rise in teen issues. Switching to a four day school week extends the day by an hour. With limited capacity for learning and retention by students and the negative attitudes that can rise, Schneiderheinze said that a secondary homeroom will be at the end of the day. Student meetings and other activities will
be planned for that time.
In the fall of 2019, DESE reported there were 58 Missouri school districts using the four day week. Lathrop was the first to do so in 2010 when the state allowed it. This year 28 schools were added to that list.
In the CLAA Conference Southwest, Keytesville, Northwestern, Tina-Avalon and Hardin- Central will all be on that list next year. Nationwide the trend to four day week is found in the mid-west and west and practically non-existent in the northeast. It is also typically a small school change.
Jon Turner, assistant professor of education leadership at Missouri State University, said lawmakers granted the flexibility to change to a four day week in the middle of an economic downturn.
“It really was about the economy going down, but in recent years schools made the switch to help with recruiting and retention of teachers,” he said.
Southwest school will not have an election this year for the positions open on the school board. Three seats were up for election, but with two members retiring from the board and one member running for re-election, and only two seeking the empty seats, the election was not needed.
Retiring from the board is long-time member Charles Jones and Chasity Anderson.
Reclaiming his seat is Tyler Anderson. The new members will be Stanton Warren and Amber Hughes.