Could four-day school week help staffing shortage?

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Four-day work weeks are becoming more popular in many parts of the country and now, so are four-day school weeks.

A district in Missouri is the latest to make the change, and here in Minnesota, there are a handful that already did — more than a decade ago.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, there are six school districts that have been approved to hold classes four days a week instead of five.

All of the districts are in rural parts of the state — motivated primarily by money that it has saved.

“In Blackduck we chose to take Monday’s off,” said Deb Sobiech, a teacher at Blackduck High School.

The model used at Blackduck makes the weeks shorter, but the days about an hour longer. It has saved the district around $125,000 every year on operating expenses.

“We’ve been doing this so long, I believe it was last year’s graduating class, the class of 2020, they started this when they were in kindergarten so they don’t know any different,” said Sobiech, who is a big believer in the model.

This new format of teaching appears to be gaining traction nationally.

This week, a school district in Independence, Missouri voted to go to a four-day school week. The superintendent of the district said that they have seen teaching applications jump more than 40% — a significant boost to the staffing shortage.

However, in Minnesota, MDE says no new districts can currently make the switch because of a moratorium that was put in place several years ago over questions about academic achievement and concerns about childcare on the fifth day.

“That was one of the criticisms we were really worried about at first, but it actually turned out to be something that wasn’t that big of a complaint,” Sobiech said. “We had high school students that were taking their Monday’s off and doing childcare for babysitting, for example, or maybe looking after their siblings.”