LATHROP, Mo. — The four-day school week is one solution that Missouri districts are exploring — or have already put in place — to recruit and retain teachers in the midst of a statewide shortage.
As another school year is about to begin, KSHB 41 talked to two district leaders — one that has had a four-day week in place for a long time and another that's exploring it for the future.
"We were only thinking about saving money, that was it," Chris Fine, superintendent at the Lathrop R-II School District, said.
The district first began exploring a four-day week in 2009.
"It's been really beneficial for us in a lot of ways," Fine said.
According to Fine, the district has saved money since it was enacted in the district.
"We are saving 1-1.5% per year, that's been consistent over the life of the thing. For us, we're able to add 25 hours of instruction," Fine said.
The district has gone from averaging 1,065 hours per year of instruction, to 1,090.
It's current schedule is Tuesday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. every week of the school calendar.
According to fine, it has also helped with staffing teachers too.
"It was really good for us at the beginning, unintended consequence, we were getting good applicants and stealing some from other places we hadn't stolen from before, honestly," Fine said.
Lathrop has been on that Tuesday through Friday schedule for more than a decade.
They're not alone in the state of Missouri in adopting that four-day week, and their neighboring districts are starting to look at it a little harder for themselves.
"The very earliest this would occur would be next school year," Dr. Dale Herl, superintendent at the Independence School District, said.
The ISD school board voted this week to start researching a four-day week.
"This was brought on not as a cost savings measure, but as you look at what's going on in in the country regarding teacher shortages, bus driver shortages, even nutrition services, we want to be proactive and look at possible solutions for that," Herl said.
Addressing childcare and nutrition needs will be part of Independence's due diligence, but there's encouraging research on another key topic regarding four-day weeks.
"It has very little to no negative impact on education and academic performance, so that's good news," Herl said.
Twenty-five percent of Missouri districts state-wide now have a four-day week.
More schools could turn the page to a new era of their own in the future.
"I think what may have been cost saving measures 8-10 years ago, really it's more about now, or as much about quality of life, a work balance, but then also, how can we retain our employees?" Herl said.