INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- A Missouri school board has voted to move its school district to a four-day school week.
The below message was posted on the school district's website Tuesday night:
"The Independence School District will move to a four-day instructional week beginning in the 2023-2024 school year.
"Please continue to use our online Four Day Instructional Week Information Center for information as district leadership works on the continued planning and implementation of next steps.
"Our priority is the safety and education of ISD students, and we appreciate our families, staff, and community groups who partner with us in this goal. Thank you for all you do for the students of the Independence School District."
Independence School District Superintendent Dr. Dale Herl previously said the driving force is to retain and attract staff, especially given recent teacher burnout rates. In fact, just with this being on the table, the district is already seeing a 40% increase in teacher applications.
Word started getting out a couple months ago that the district could be transitioning to a four-day school week.
"My initial thoughts were, 'That's a giant challenge,'" said Beckie Fite, a small business owner and mom of two students in the district.
Dr. Herl very much understands that reaction. However, he can't ignore the overwhelming success the four-day model has already brought to the Show Me State and others.
"In Missouri, there's over 140 districts that have ever done this and only one has gone back," said Herl. "You look in Colorado, nearly 70% of school districts have gone to four-day weeks and they've never had one go back to a traditional five-day."
He said the biggest challenge right now is planning the fifth day. Childcare would be offered.
In addition, the model would be broken up into three different areas: Elementary, middle, and high school.
"The research shows that, due to COVID, we have kids that fell behind," Herl said. "This is a great way to catch them up. Also, we would have enrichment activities. This would include, at the high school, level things like: college classes, tutoring. Field trips at all three levels."
Independence is the largest school district in the state to adopt the four-day school week.
Right now, the Warren County School District holds that title. The superintendent there, Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith, said they transitioned four years ago and have never looked back.
"It has helped us retain our staff," said Klinginsmith. "We went from an 83% retention rate to an 88% retention rate. We've had good feedback from staff and academics have stayed pretty consistent."
He thinks this is a model most districts will eventually end up converting to.
Fite is on board and eager to see the outcome for her community.
"It's a scary move," Fite said. "There's a lot to consider. It's so complicated. There's so many layers to it. So, being willing to take the challenge on, it says they don't want to take the easy route. They're looking at the changes that need to be made and willing to do what it takes to make the changes."
KCTV5 News asked the Independence superintendent if this is a cost-cutting measure for the district. He said it is not and that it could actually tack on additional expenses for all of the fifth-day offerings.
ABC7 Chicago contributed to this report.
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