Southern Idaho’s West Side School District is considering a four-day school week.
At a recent school board meeting, the four-day school week was described as a significant tool for teacher retention and recruitment, and with West Side schools being the only district in the region not using the shortened week, it puts them at a disadvantage for finding and retaining teachers.
District Superintendent Spencer Barzee noted that nearly 40% of all school districts in the state of Idaho are on a four-day school week. He also cited a report by the Colorado Department of Education that says student performance on achievement tests don’t decline when school districts move to a four-day week. Their study found that districts on the four-day week are rated either proficient or advanced in math and reading at similar levels as those on a five day week.
In Colorado, 55% of school districts are now on a four-day schedule.
The second information source is a little closer to home: The Preston School District went to the four-day week in 2011, and a 2015 survey found that 85% of the community felt it either had no significant impact or a positive impact on their students and families.
West Side officials calculate that the district can expect to save $50,000 a year by changing to the shortened week. A second bonus is that the shortened school week has been shown to increase student and teacher attendance, which helps determine where the state spends future money on schools.
Savings from the change would likely be used to fund optional Friday school programs for students of all grade levels interested in additional instruction on a Friday.
One key factor the board must consider is that by state law the school year must have 900 hours of instruction for grades 1-8 and 990 for grades 9-12. At present the hours of instruction are 960 (grades 1-8), and 1010 (grades 9-12) spread over 177 days; under the new system there would be 953 and 997 spread over 146.
The board did not vote on the matter. During the discussion, Barzee suggested that sports practices could be cut shorter since school would be getting out at 4 p.m. instead of 3 p.m., or the school could still get out at 3 and extend the year past Memorial Day. That suggestion drew a doubtful chuckle from the board.
The board requested the superintendent create hypothetical calendars based on the four-day week and they will discuss the subject further in the June 12th board meeting.