JOHNSTON — A handful of public school districts in Iowa are holding classes four days a week and educators say other districts are considering the idea.
Chris Coffelt is superintendent of the Central Decatur Community School District, based in Leon and the Lamoni Community Schools. “I think that we have to look at it as a potential teacher recruitment and retention strategy,” Coffelt says. “There are school districts in our area that are evaluating it. There are school districts across the nation that are implementing it, so we are looking to see if that is something that makes sense for us.”
Advocates of the move say it reduces student absences and gives teachers more time to plan and collaborate with other teachers. “We’re also looking to see what would be the impact on students and families on that day that we’re not in session and ensuring we have supports for them,” Coffelt says, “so that child is taken five days a week even if they’re just in school four days a week.”
The Cardinal Community School District in Eldon switched last November to holding classes Tuesdays through Fridays and Murray Community Schools made the move this fall. A decade ago, WACO Community School District in Wayland was the first Iowa district to shift to a four day school week. Mormon Trail in Humeston and Moulton-Udell have also switched to four day weeks.
About 90% of the US schools now holding classes just four days a week are in rural areas and the other 10% percent are suburban or urban settings.
Brad Buck is superintendent of Waukee Community Schools, Iowa’s fastest growing school district, and he says they’ve had informal conversations about a four-day school week. “There’s a school district in Missouri that’s about our size that went to it a year or two ago and so we’ve kind of been cautiously watching them to see if it’s something that we might consider,” Buck says. “The biggest challenge is that fifth day…What are students doing that’s productive and on that fifth day when they’re not in school?”
Buck and Coffelt made their comments recently on “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS.