A Closer Look At Warsaw R-IX’s 4 Day School Week

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Warsaw R-IX School District is in its fifth month of 4-day school weeks, and it appears to be accomplishing what was hoped for. Evaluation tests given to students monthly at the elementary level are showing progress, and there are big savings on transportation and use of substitute teachers.
“Attendance is up and discipline down,” said School Superintendent Dr. Shawn Poyser. “Of course we have good people working here that contribute to those positives. It is really too early to tell if academic achievement will improve, but we are more rested and prepared under this new schedule. Our morale and energy are good.”
Dr. Poyser said that athletes still practice afternoons including Mondays, and they still have Monday games, but they are not spending long days in school and sports. He said that there is a sense of urgency during the four-day week to have more in-depth teaching, as well as during professional development days when teachers work on various educational committees planning such things as curriculum.
Dr. Poyser said that he knew there was some concern about the need for Monday day care under the new schedule, and a daycare program was offered at North School to accommodate working parents with young children. However, he said that no one took the district up on the offer. Substitute pay was also increased by $10 to account for longer school hours, and is now $85 per day.
Four other school superintendents, who are considering four-day weeks for their district have contacted Dr. Poyser to talk about his experience with the schedule. Fox4kc.com reported in August 2018 that there are currently 29 districts in Missouri with four-day school weeks, including three districts that began this schedule last school year. A survey of faculty and staff at the three districts, by Redfame.com, revealed that staff morale had improved, the four-day week had a positive impact on what is taught in classrooms, and had increased academic quality.
Conversations with Warsaw teachers, students and parents, revealed that they are mostly favorable about the four-day week, but with a few concerns.
Kim Flippin, elementary librarian for the Warsaw School District, said that she is still making up her mind about the four-day schedule. She enjoys having an extra day to plan her lessons, but sees that the younger students are more tired at the end of the day since it is longer than a school day under the 5-day schedule.
Several other Warsaw teachers commented that it was too early to make a lot of observations, but that progress seemed positive, and they all agreed that young elementary children were tired at the end of the day.
One teacher said that when there was a special school day devoted to a field trip or other event, then 25 percent of the week’s academics were interrupted with a four-day week. She said that during a five-day week, only 20 percent of the week was interrupted for special days.
Students in the middle school who were interviewed were in favor of the change. One enjoyed being able to sleep in on Mondays.  One eighth grader said that he liked the change, and  it was fine. He said that students got to stay in school longer and learn more in longer classes. The extra day gave him time to study for tests, and to work part-time to save money for college. He commented on the fact that he did see some students in his classes falling asleep, but thought that they could find ways to remedy that.
Seventh grader Adam Cook likes the four-day schedule. He said that the five-day week is “too boring, even though he did get to learn a lot.”
Former Warsaw School Board member, Jimmy Miller, said that he was pleased with the way the four-day school week is turning out. He likes the flexibility of the extra day, and his kids seem to concentrate more, have better grades and attitude. 
Shawn Miller, grandmother to Jimmy Miller’s kids, and owner of Reser Funeral Home, said that her daughter-in-law, who teaches English, now gets the opportunity to grade papers on Mondays, freeing up her Sundays so she can spend time with her family.
“I’ve heard some negative comments about a shortened school week though,” said Shawn Miller. “There is a concern that our students don’t get enough teaching and have a hard time competing with students from other countries. She gave an example of a foreign exchange student attending Warsaw schools who is ahead of students in her grade level because of her education in Brazil.
Apparently a few schools in South Dakota tried a shorter school week as far back as the 1930s, but the recent movement for a shorter school week is related to the gas crisis in the late 1970s and 1980s. While most districts returned to the five-day week after gas prices went down, some continued with the shortened week. 
Lathrop Schools in Missouri was the first district in the state to move to a four-day school week in 2000.  In an article at Fox4kc.com, Lathrop School District Superintendent Chris Fine said it came about purely from a cost-savings standpoint.