Forsyth School District considers 4-day week for teacher retention

Published: Dec. 9, 2019 at 6:32 PM CST
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Yet another area school district is looking into going to a four-day school week. Forsyth School District officials held a community meeting on Monday night to visit with the public about their research as to how the shorter school week would benefit the district.

Missouri St. professor Dr. John Turner has found in his extensive research of schools shifting to four-day weeks that teacher retention is one of the biggest reasons they make the move.

"Some of these rural schools really struggle to get highly-qualified teachers not only to come to their district but to stay," he said.

That situation is no different in Forsyth where the district had 27 staff openings this past year.

"At some of our positions we had zero applicants and we can't do our job if we can't hire teachers," explained Forsyth Superintendent Dr. Jeff Mingu

So that was the main reason the district started researching a move to a four-day week. It found food and fuel savings would only cut the budget by about two percent, not enough to increase teacher salaries substantially.

But the offer of an extra-day off did have,an appeal.

"If we can provide a shorter work week and still provide a good culture for teachers we feel like we'll get more people to look at us as a district to come to work at," Mingus said.

Still there is always one topic that comes up every time a school considers such a move.

How is this going to impact child care for families?

"We've found that in each district it's been a concern but we also find than once the four-day week gets rolling about a month in, the parents find it to not be a problem," Mingus said.

Besides there may be an answer just down the street to the problem in Forsyth as the Boys and Girls Club is located right next to the school complex and they're willing to expand their after-school educational program if the district goes to four-days a week.

"Our goal is to keep kids busy while their parents are working," said the Boys and Girls Club CEO Stoney Hays.

The Boys and Girls Club already serves 375 youngsters a day with their $30 annual dues and with students off on Mondays, they'd still offer plenty of recreation but also increase instruction time.

"We would like to make that an enrichment day, Hays explained. "A time to really focus on workforce development for the teenagers and for the younger kids to focus on reading and the STEM program."

The move to a four-day week would add about 40-minutes to each school day and the district is definitely wanting feedback from the families whose lives would be affected.

"Absolutely their input counts," Mingus said. "This is what we propose as a positive move for our district for our kids but it is not set yet."

The board plans on voting on the issue by either the end of this month or early January. More input from parents will be done by surveys being taken later this week.