4 Day School Week- R-IX District Could Take Dynamic Shift

Anita Campbell
County Reporter
Warsaw Superintendent Shawn Poyser presented a four day school week proposal to his staff at their January Professional Development meeting on January 2.
Poyser began the meeting by pointing out that the Warsaw R-9 District has several old buildings in need of repairs and remodeling.
 “In a perfect world we would have all the schools on the same campus but instead we have four different locations to maintain,” Poyser said.  “Going to a four day school week could save the district close to $100,000.”
One of the benefits of a four day school week would be lowering transportation costs.  The busses would only run four days a week instead of five.
Another important benefit would be an increase in attendance for students and staff.  Warsaw had an 88.7 percent attendance rate for the 2016-17 school year.  As of the end of first semester, not one building in the R-9 District had 90 percent attendance.  North Elementary had 87.56% attendance; South Elementary had 87.40% attendance; John Boise Middle School had 84.36% attendance; Ruth Mercer Elementary had 83.72% attendance and WHS had 76.44% attendance.
Poyser commented that the district receives funds from the state based on student attendance, so in order to increase the amount of funding, students need to be in class.
“We can’t teach if the students aren’t in class so we are looking at as many different ways to get them into class that we can,” Poyser said. 
 Transportation expense is another reason for the four day week.
 “We would save approximately $30,000 in transportation costs with a four day week,” said Poyser.  “The R-9 District covers 320 square miles which makes it one of the largest in the state.”
Poyser pointed out that a four day school week would also allow for more family time.
“Students and staff would be able to set up doctor and dentist appointments for Mondays and therefore not have to miss school,” Poyser said.
Substitute teachers would be in lower demand with a four day week, contributing to the district’s cost savings.  The four day school week leaves Mondays available for teacher training sessions or in service, allowing teachers to manage professional development without missing school.
If the Warsaw R-9 School District were to implement the four day week, school would begin at approximately 8 AM and continue until 3:31 Tuesday through Friday.  That would break down to 5 to 6 minutes more in each class for the middle school and high school. 
Missouri law allows four day school weeks and gives districts the choice to structure their school calendar as they see fit.  It is up to the school board rather than the district administrators to make that call.  A majority of the board must vote in favor of the altered school schedule.
 Even if children are only in school four days of the week, the law requires that they still attend school for at least 1,044 hours per school year.
 “Warsaw students will be in class 1,079 hours with the four day week,” said Poyser 
 Missouri districts began adopting four day weeks in 2011 when the Legislature changed the minimum school requirement from 174 days to 1,044 hours.  Adding the extra time to each school day would meet the 1,044 threshold.
Schools in Missouri currently using the four day week plan include:  Community R-VI, Miami R-1, Harrisburg R-VIII, East Lynne 40, Orearville R-IV, Miller R-II, Pierce City R-VI, Stockton R-1, East Newton, Montgomery County R-11, Lathrop R-11, Everton R-III, Albany R-111, Maries County R-11, Walnut Grove, Crane, Wellsville Middletown R-1, Laclede County C-5 and Wellington-Napoleon.
The Lexington School District in Lafayette County, east of Kansas City, is the only Missouri district to revert back to a five day school week after a two year trial of the four day week.
The superintendent of the North Callaway School District says the district will implement a four-day school week for the 2017-18 school year.
Superintendent Bryan Thomsen says the change is in response to a cut in state funds for schools.
Thomsen said the change could save the mid-Missouri district about $100,000, or 1 percent of its $10 million annual budget. The district about 20 miles east of Columbia has about 1,200 students.
The decision comes after district officials sought reaction from parents, with 65.7 percent in support, 13 percent opposed and 21.3 percent undecided.
The district is planning a future election to ask residents for an operating levy increase.
Twenty one states currently have school districts operating on a four day week.  These states include:  Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.  There are more than 120 school districts that host four day school week program. 
According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Supervisor no school district has gone back to a Four-Day Week to due to APR scores. 171.029.  Four-day school week authorized — calendar to be filed with department. 
1.  The school board of any school district in the state, upon adoption of a resolution by the vote of a majority of all its members to authorize such action, may establish a four-day school week or other calendar consisting of less than one hundred seventy-four days in lieu of a five-day school week.  Upon adoption of a four-day school week or other calendar consisting of less than one hundred seventy-four days, the school shall file a calendar with the department of elementary and secondary education in accordance with section 171.031.  Such calendar shall include, but not be limited to, a minimum term of one hundred forty-two days and one thousand forty-four hours of actual pupil attendance.
 2.  If a school district that attends less than one hundred seventy-four days meets at least two fewer performance standards on two successive annual performance reports than it met on its last annual performance report received prior to implementing a calendar year of less than one hundred seventy-four days, it shall be required to revert to a one hundred seventy-four-day school year in the school year following the report of the drop in the number of performance standards met.  When the number of performance standards met reaches the earlier number, the district may return to the four-day week or other calendar consisting of less than one hundred seventy-four days in the next school year.
Usually these programs are in small, rural districts.
Poyser said he intends to survey the R-9 staff and parents about the four day program to get their reactions.
 “We will have several community meetings in February to get the reactions to the four day week,” said Poyser. 
The Board of Education could possibly vote on a four day week proposal at the March meeting. "Four day weeks, according to research shared with staff, and my interviews with area four day schools, has shown teacher attendance and student attendance goes up. Coupled with more in depth instruction can lead to increased student achievement. Also, the ability to attract and retain teachers to our district would be huge. It is nice to save money and I try to wherever I can without hurting the district, but the other benefits are much more important."