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Education

Four Day School Week Proves Beneficial for Everton Schools

Everton High School gym
Everton R-III Facebook

A few years ago, a school district in northern Missouri announced it was moving to a four-day school week to save money.  Since then, other rural districts in the state have done the same.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky talked with the superintendent of a local school district that chose to go that route to see how the revised schedule is working.

It’s been three years since Everton R-3 Schools made the switch.  The district just started the fourth year of four-day weeks, and its superintendent, Dr. Karl Janson, said he’s happy with how it’s gone so far.

When they first started tossing around the idea, there were concerns, but, he said, surprisingly, 85 percent of those who responded to a survey liked the idea.  One of the biggest worries was childcare on the Mondays the schools wouldn’t be in session.  They addressed that issue like other schools had that had already shortened their school weeks.

"We looked at offering daycare at the school for folks in the community, and so that's what we did, but we did not have anybody take us up on it," he said.

According to Janson, the shorter week has saved the district about two percent in its overall budget, which he said is significant for a small, rural district.

"That's why, traditionally, you see a lot of small, rural districts going to this a lot quicker than you see in the bigger communities," he said.

According to Janson, the Everton District was in “some pretty tough financial straits” when they decided to go to a four-day week.  They had put a bond issue before voters that was unsuccessful and needed to look for ways to save money.

He said they’ve seen the most savings in their non-certified staff, which was cut back a day.  They saved money in transportation costs—including fuel, bus repair and maintenance.  And there were unexpected savings.

"We didn't need nearly as many substitutes throughout the course of the year.  We saved several thousand dollars doing that because the teachers got on board and make their doctors appointments on the Mondays we're not in session and things like that, so they're in the classroom a lot more, which, again, benefits the students, you know, there's just that continuous educational process throughout the year," he said.

And utility costs have decreased, on average, $4,000 a year or about 12 percent.

While other school districts in Missouri had gone to a four-day week, Everton was the first in southwest Missouri to do so.

Janson said he’s contacted four or five times a year by districts thinking about doing the same thing.  Stockton, which moved to a four-day week last year, brought board members, community members, administrators and teachers to Everton to talk to students before they made the decision.  That’s when Janson really realized the benefits of the shorter week to students.

"Our high school students talked about how a lot of them do dual credit college classes, and they were able to do, if not more of that, but they did a lot of their homework on those Mondays where we're not in session," said Janson.

He said vo-tech students are able to get internships on Mondays, and high schoolers can work to help their families out financially.

"Overall with the students what we've seen is there's a greater engagement throughout Tuesday through Friday.  Something about not having school on that Monday makes a big difference in teachers' attitudes and in students' attitudes," he said.

According to Janson, the non-traditional schedule took some getting used to, but overall it’s been positive.  One advantage—there are no more half days.

"So, everybody knows--Tuesday through Friday, that's when we're going to school," he said.

And Mondays are sometimes used as make up days when school has to be canceled due to weather.  Staff and community members say they like having a three-day weekend.  Test scores have gone up, according to Janson, although he can’t say whether or not that’s due to the shorter week.

"We had the highest ACT of any school in our area last year, and so we're looking to see what our test scores are for this year, of course, and it continues to be a positive for us, and we continue to see great things out of our students," he said.

Under state law, schools have to be in session a minimum of 1044 hours.  In order to meet that mandate, the Everton District added 30 minutes to the school day in the morning and in the afternoon.  They now go from 8 am to 3:40 pm.  And they have only elective classes in the last part of the day so students who have to leave early for athletics don’t miss required courses.

Other schools are moving to four-day weeks.  The Niangua R-V District decided to make the switch this year after a tax levy increase in April failed.  In an effort to find money for building improvements, district officials started researching that option and made the final decision in June.  Schools in Niangua started their new schedule in August.

Other area schools that have gone to a four-day week include Stockton and Miller.