Some Texas school districts are moving to a four-day week

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It’s Thursday afternoon as parents line up outside Athens South Primary School to pick up their children. In most districts, there is only one day left until the weekend. In Athens, Texas, the weekend begins now.

Maria Romero likes this. “That way I can spend more time with my kids,” says Romero, who has gotten used to the changed school schedule.

“I understand that some people work on Fridays and want their children to be in school. But for me, to be honest, I prefer four days.

Brianna Kramer, a few cars ahead, disagrees.

“I don’t like it,” she said. “I have to pay daycare on the fifth day so I can work.”

More and more neighborhoods struggle to hire and retain teachers. Now some districts are trying a four-day school week as a way to attract teachers. In Texas, there are now a number of districts with four days on and three days off.

As they considered a shorter week, Athens school officials knew they would face some pushback. The hours are longer, so the children have the same instruction time. But the district was also losing 1 in 5 teachers each year. Superintendent Janie Sims said the teachers they hire often lack experience.

“We were getting a lot of brand new ones, which is great, but it also takes resources to train them, mentor them,” Sims said. “It forces our admins to spend more time with them in development and that sort of thing.”

So in 2019, Athens launched a three-year pilot program to retain and attract more teachers, with a school week running from Monday to Thursday. The parents were suspicious, but willing. A local employer even added a four-day work week to help parents. Three years later, internal school surveys show that most people – including teachers – liked it. And the school began to attract more experienced teachers.

“It was a huge bonus,” Sims said.

Another bonus? District students performed better on state tests last year than they did in 2019, before the pandemic – despite the challenges of COVID. So the Athens four-day school week is now permanently while the five-day school is permanently closed.

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