Missouri school district votes to adopt four-day school week

(INDEPENDENCE, Mo.) — A Missouri school district voted Tuesday evening to adopt a four-day school week starting in fall 2023.

The decision marks the first time Independence School District will make such a switch, according to Superintendent Dr. Dale Herl.

“The impetus behind it was to attract and retain staff,” Herl told “Good Morning America” Wednesday, noting that discussions for the proposal began back in August.

“If you look across the country, there is a significant teacher shortage but it even goes beyond teachers as well. There’s a shortage for individuals who can drive buses, paraprofessionals, so it’s not just about trying to fill teaching positions but certainly that’s something that we’re very focused upon,” Herl said.

The average salary for a public elementary or high school teacher in Missouri decreased by around 5% between 1969 and 2020, and over 6% between 2009 and 2020, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Nationally, teachers who have walked away from the profession have cited burnout, a lack of respect and low compensation as reasons for leaving.

Herl said Independence School District’s starting pay for teachers begins at $41,150 and tops out at $81,713 for a veteran teacher, but like many school districts around the U.S., it has seen fewer applicants for teaching and staff positions in recent years, especially those in special education and STEM fields, due to a variety of factors.

“I think it’s a combination of things. It’s everything from compensation to work-life balance to the amount of time it takes to be a teacher,” Herl said, adding that he’s noticed Missouri universities have also graduated fewer education students as well.

But the move to four days for teachers and students has at least made an immediate impact, said Herl.

“Since the discussions started with the school board regarding a four day week, we looked at the applicants that we’ve received, and our applications are up almost 40% compared to the same time last year,” the superintendent said.

The four-day schedule would apply to over 14,000 K-12 students in Independence School District, a suburban district east of Kansas City and students in early education programs will be unaffected. According to Herl, there has been a mixed reaction to the upcoming change with teachers showing support while some parents remain hesitant.

“The reception has been mixed. … It’s something new, so I think it will be something that we will continue to get information out to our families,” Herl said. “As we’ve talked to a number of school districts in the United States that have gone to a four-day week, and what they expressed to us is there will be a lot of people that are very nervous about this but their experience was, once they got into the four-day week, it was very successful and the community enjoyed it.”

The adoption of four-day school weeks have only grown as local school districts in multiple states try to address the national teacher and staff shortage they’ve been seeing year over year.

Earlier this fall, Jasper Independent School District in Jasper, Texas, about 134 miles northeast of Houston, moved to a four-day school week also in an attempt to attract and keep more teachers in the small city.

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