This Boise-area school district may move to 4-day week, affecting thousands of students

The Nampa School District is considering moving students to a four-day school week to address the district’s challenges with hiring and retaining teachers.

Nampa Superintendent Gregg Russell told school board trustees that a four-day school week could help the district compete in recruiting teachers with the larger Boise and West Ada school districts as well as smaller Treasure Valley districts.

“Where we sit, we need to compete against the (smaller school districts) and we can pay more, but the little districts also have four- day weeks, and that makes them very competitive to us when it comes to hiring, and we are a very competitive hiring environment,” Russell said. “But we cannot pay as well as the larger districts.”

The hiring consideration and pressure from Nampa School District parents are what led Russell to look into what a four-day school week would mean for Nampa, which has nearly 14,000 students.

Residents surveyed on short week

In a presentation to the school board on Tuesday, Russell said that when the district decided to close four schools last year, he received emails from people who suggested the district move to a shorter week for students rather than closing schools. He and other administrative officials decided to gauge how much interest people had in a four-day week through a survey.

The survey asked if the district should look into the idea of a four-day school week, Russell said. The district received nearly 3,000 responses, and 73% said it should, he said.

Russell said district administrators found that moving to a four-day week wouldn’t save the district enough to achieve needed budget savings, but it would allow them to compete to recruit and retain teachers.

“While it can potentially save some finances, it really does not save the dollar amount that we need,” Russell said.

In talking with school districts that have changed to a four-day school week, Russell said, they found that staff, parents and students are “very satisfied with a four-day week.”

“One striking thing to me is that no district goes back,” he said. “Once they go to four, they stay. It is something that has helped with recruiting and retaining staff and many staff and parents also enjoy it.”

Middleton, Blackfoot and Post Falls school districts all have a four-day school weeks, Russell said.

Schools are entering a tough staffing period, Russell said. There are teacher shortages in Idaho and nationwide, he said, with fewer teachers entering the profession and more teachers retiring within the next five to 15 years.

Effects on attendance, achievement

Russell said he considered statistical data comparing student attendance and achievement when they spent four versus five days a week at school, and anecdotal data from districts that have made the change.

Student attendance improved for many districts when they changed to a four-day week, Russell said.

According to an Oregon State-University study Russell cited, there were some cases where schools that moved to four-day weeks saw decreased achievement, because students spent less time learning.

“What they found is the districts that (had) low hours of instruction did actually see a significant decline (in student achievement) on the four-day week,” Russell said. “Those districts that had middle or high hours (of instruction) really didn’t see any significant impacts to their achievement. That shows that how much time kids are in school is critical.”

Most school districts with four-day weeks increase the length of time students are in school each day. Instead of ending at 2 p.m. every day, a district with four days may end later, said Andy Grover, executive director of the Idaho Association of School Administrations, in an Idaho Legislature committee meeting on Tuesday that briefly covered questions on the four-day school week.

Nampa watches money bill in Legislature

A concern for the Nampa School District their eligibility for funding from a $2 billion school facilities bill that was introduced in a legislative committee on Tuesday.

Russell said part of the eligibility requirements for districts to receive the facilities funding is that districts do not convert from a five- day school week to a four-day week. But he said the requirement is unclear.

In an email, Kathleen Tuck, spokesperson for the Nampa School District, said the district is going to see what the Legislature does with the facilities bill. The bill is headed for a vote by the full House.

“It’s one of the many things the board will consider before making any decisions,” Tuck said.

The trustees are scheduled to consider adopting the four-day week during their Tuesday, March 19, or Tuesday, April 16 meeting.

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