CISD explores abridged week for 2024-25 school year

Texas ISDs implementing schedule to help retain teachers


Nandini Muresh

Coppell ISD is evaluating the idea of a four-day school week starting in the 2024-25 school year. Various neighboring school districts have also been considering this option over the course of the past few months.

In its February employee newsletter, Coppell ISD floated the idea of a four-day school week, testing the waters to see if CISD educators were willing to take the first step in reimagining the traditional school week. 

In just the past few months, neighboring districts have considered converting to a four-day school week, with, according to The Dallas Morning News, Mesquite ISD looking at cutting back in an “effort to ‘tackle an extreme teacher shortage.’”

According to Waco’s KWTX, in Texas, there are at least 43 districts already operating on a four-day school week, though most are located in sparsely populated areas. Of the 43, 15 are located in North Texas and 17 are located in East Texas.

Spring Creek ISD, located in the Texas panhandle, converted to an abridged school week with Fridays off for students and staff in the 2018-19 school year. 

“You know, our school is very rural, where we have no town,” SCISD Board of Trustees President Bob Kasch said. “Our school is all that’s left of the booming oil patch of Borger, Texas of the 1920s.” 

A study done by RAND Corporation found that shifts to the four-day school week tend to “increase during financial downturns and a primary motive for making the shift is to save money on school-related costs such as hourly staff salaries and student transportation.” 

As teacher retention remains a national challenge, smaller districts across Texas are struggling to keep up with the competitive advantages of larger districts. The teacher shortage crisis is exacerbated by teachers leaving for better-paying jobs at better-developed schools or even outside of the education industry. 

To mitigate such issues, some rural districts have turned to four-day school weeks. Kasch credits the four-day school week for aiding in teacher retention. 

“Teacher retention, that was the big [thing],” Kasch said. “I think it helped because we just didn’t have everything a larger district had. We went to four days when we went back to having 12 grades because the local junior college was a four-day school. If you started saying OK, ladies and gents, we’re going to work every Friday this spring to get ready for TELPAS tests,’ [teachers] are going to be like ‘Well, hell if they said that’s this, there is no reason to go here. I’ll go to bigger and better ISDs.’”

While most of the practicing schools remove Friday from the school week, Apple Springs ISD removed Mondays from the district calendar. 

Texas House Bill 2610, however, requires districts to operate a minimum of 75,600 minutes per year including intermissions and recess. To accommodate for lost hours in a four-day school week, districts are required to either extend the school day or extend school weeks into what would have been summer break. Palo Pinto ISD, for example, has extended school days by 40 minutes to accommodate for the loss of school hours on Friday. 

The cut-back school week can allow for extra enrichment time for students already excelling at school. According to RAND Corporation, “students in grades K–6 and 7–12, respectively, reported having four hours and 3.5 hours more free time per week than five days per week students. In each age group, four-day school week students spent approximately 30 to 60 minutes more than five-day school week students on non-school sports and hobbies and spent one hour to 1.5 hours more on chores every week.”

Other schools have taken on a different approach, opting to use one day of the week as an optional day, available for students who need the time to work one on one with their teachers. Olfen ISD, the first district in Texas to implement a four-day school week, has a schedule where students can choose to attend school on Friday. Dime Box ISD has implemented “flex days” on Mondays where attendance is optional based on academic need or if a parent has no other childcare options.

This new system may also be beneficial to teachers in allowing them to commute less often to school and allowing Fridays to open up to personal appointments and projects.

“I think it’s definitely conducive to people who like to have a longer weekend and like to accomplish some things,” Coppell High School Business Management and Business Law teacher Bruce Stewart said. “In addition, it cuts back on the travel time because you have one less day. It’s a competitive advantage that some school districts are already offering [and it helps] with teacher retention and attraction. I think the longer days [to account for lost hours] would definitely be a struggle for students as well as teachers, but I think that’s a struggle that we’ve seen even going to block schedules.”

Similar to how Spring Creek ISD uses some Fridays for staff development days, CHS Principal Laura Springer finds that the extra day could be used for student and teacher enrichment.

“For us, it would be great,” Springer said. “On that fifth day, we could do a lot of our staff development during that time, teacher growth, making sure that we are all calibrating with each other of what we need to be doing in our classes and with [students]. Also, it could serve as a time for us to bring in some kids who are really struggling and we could do almost like a C day that day, but actually have intense interventions for those young people and try to get them on task for where they need to be and make sure that they’re not falling behind.”

But according to CHS DECA advisor and business teacher Richard Chamberlain, this discussion is being used to overshadow the root issue of low teacher salaries. 

“This is a smokescreen,” Chamberlain said.  “In the month or two before this became the talking point of everything, there was talk of flat raises for teachers at the federal, state and local levels. Everybody was talking about it: percentage raises, raising the minimum, etc. Now it seems like the way to retain teachers in their mind is this four-day workweek when it is a total bait and switch. Instead of paying us more money, they want to entice us with this four-day workweek, which again, does not change the amount of minutes we’re working.”

Back in January, State representative James Talarico filed House Bill 1548 in an attempt to raise teacher salaries. According to Community Impact, the bill would increase teacher salaries by $15,000 and increase pay for school support staff by 25 percent. Furthermore, the bill would make the average teacher salary increase to $73,887. No decision has been made since.

The four-day school week also raises concerns with child care on the extra day off. With parents working 9-5s, five days a week, the abridged school week schedule would mean making some sort of accommodation to take care of children on that fifth day. As inflation rises, prices for child-care also rise, forcing parents to pay even more for such services. 

“Childcare on Fridays is nearly impossible in the sense that you cannot sign up just for Fridays,” Chamberlain said. “So the concept of just having a kid go to a daycare center on Friday is not an applicable option. Even before the four-day week, you have to have a minimum number of days to [send your child to daycare] and they don’t have the staff to be able to handle just Fridays. That is extremely expensive for parents as well. They’re already paying high property taxes to have, for lack of a better term, a place for their child to go where they are safe Monday through Friday while they are working. This would take away from that.”

Even for parents who work at home, looking out for younger children can still remain a challenge.

“It’s insulting to parents who work from home, under the premise that they can just watch their kids while they work,” Chamberlain said. “There’s this concept that some people have, including teachers, that people who work from home can watch a child. That is borderline offensive to imply that people who work from home have this ability to watch multiple children, children of multiple ages, and give them proper supervision during the day when they have required meetings and items they have to go to.”

Another problem can arise concerning scheduling conflicts with extracurricular activities. For SCISD, the only athletics team for the entire district is seventh and eighth grade basketball. Larger problems would be posed for CISD in relation to all sports teams and even after-school commitments with band, color guard and theater.

“There’s still a lot of challenges,” Stewart said. “What are you going to do, because we have so many activities and athletics that occur on one of the nights? Does that mean they get condensed into a four-day school week? What happens when our events don’t coincide from a competition perspective with those of other districts? Whether it’s athletics, whether it’s band, whatever it is, there’s competition and things that will occur on days that school doesn’t occur.”

CISD is in the preliminary stages of putting together a committee to research the viability of a four-day week. Community input will be garnered and more planning will take place before a decision is made.

“We’re really interested to watch and see how that’s going to play out,” CISD Board of Trustees president David Caviness said. “I don’t know yet the prospects for Coppell yet to go to a four-day school week. [Superintendent Dr. Brad Hunt ] just announced we were in the early stage of starting a committee to explore the option and evaluate the pros and cons. It’ll be a pretty long process before we even get to a point of having a real discussion about it. Right now they’re in the information-gathering phase and just trying to understand the ins and outs of how it would work. We’ll see from there.”

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