Elkhart Independent School District’s board of trustees adopted a four day school week for the coming 2023-2024 school year at its February meeting. The decision follows a trend among almost 60 rural districts across the state in an effort to recruit and retain teachers and boost student achievement. Elkhart schools adopted a Monday through Thursday calendar with all Fridays off. Study trips and extracurricular activities will continue on Fridays. EISD’s new schedule includes 65 minutes of additional instruction each school day. Classes will be held from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at elementary campuses and from 7:50 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. at secondary campuses.
The number of the districts changing to the four day week are rural and located in the north and east regions of the state and represent just 6% of the state’s 1,022 school districts. After the Elkhart school board’s decision, four local school districts have now moved to a four-day week. Austin television station KXAN reported this week that 59 Texas school districts have adopting a four-day week for the coming school year. Oakwood schools are following a four day school week for the current school year while Frankston and Slocum school boards recently recently approved a similar schedule.
EISD Superintendent Dr. Lamont Smith said the idea arose from staff input but the decision came after the district thoroughly researched benefits of adopting the new schedule and its impact on all staff, student instruction, and parents. “There’s been synergy about the four day work week for quite some time,” Smith said. “We had several staff members who had a desire to go that direction, where they felt they could meet the needs of our children and have some additional time to do other things.”
The district sought feedback from parents by sending messages about the survey directly to their cell phones. The study found that more than 50% of parents support the change. They also visited Corrigan-Camden ISD near Lufkin that is following a similar schedule during the current school year. “Our staff is excited,” Smith said. They’re happy and looking forward to next year. At the end of the day we see it as a win for our district because we’re going to be able to provide the best educators for our students, and that’s what our parents want.”
The new schedules are made possible by a law that requires roughly 75,000 minutes of instruction time per school year. Due to the increased flexibility of instructional time, some rural school districts are adopting the shorter week to entice teachers to continue working in their districts and to have an advantage in recruiting new teachers.
“I would like to thank our school board for advocating alongside of teachers to go with a four day work week that will impact all of our staff,” Smith said. For information about EISD’s new 2023-2024 calendar visit www.elkhartisd.org.