National teacher shortage pushes 4-day school week across country

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(David Young)

David Young, Campus Editor

Teachers, students, and school staff nationwide are expressing their interest in a new school schedule structure: a 4-day school week.

The 4-day school week is a reality for dozens of schools across the country. 41 Texas school districts have adopted what they call the “4-day instructional week,” where students attend classes from Tuesday to Friday. 

This comprehensive change in schedule structure is a response to the ongoing teacher shortage across the US. In the spring before the COVID-19 pandemic, 662 school districts were operating with a 4-day school week, a 600% increase from 1999. Data analysts agree that these numbers have only increased following the pandemic.

(National Education Association)

According to the National Education Association, approximately 90% of teachers say burnout is a serious problem.  As inflation rises and the economy continues to struggle, it can be difficult for schools to attract teachers. 

Schools across the country are turning to various changes in budgeting and hiring to combat the shortage. Florida now permits military veterans without a bachelor’s degree to teach; Arizona permits college students. While these efforts attempt to curb the problem, the public is concerned about how the changes impact the quality of education. 

Proponents of the 4-day school week argue that the system maintains the quality of education and addresses budgetary shortfalls. Considering Homewood is more than adequately resourced, quality education remains. Latin teacher Douglas Welle highlights the appreciation for teachers at HCS.

“I would say [the teaching environment] is excellent,” Welle said. “It’s reflected in how Homewood is annually rated as one of the top districts in the state.”

Teachers at HHS are provided with a planning period, where they are not required to teach a class. These planning periods make Homewood a particularly appealing location for teachers across the state. The Superintendent of Homewood City Schools, Dr. Justin Hefner, underscores the importance of rigorous hiring and careful selection of quality teachers.

“In Homewood, we do our best to give every effort and support to ensure [teachers] are successful, cared for, trained in best practices, and included in the collaborative experience in our school system,” Dr. Hefner said. “We value our teachers, and we want them to feel a sense of pride in working in the Homewood family.”

As schools across the country shift to a four-day school week, the implementation of this controversial system at Homewood is a complicated question. Alabama schools require a minimum of 180 student days or 1,080 instructional hours. Dr. Hefner maintains that any changes to the school schedule system would have a ripple effect.

“One example would be a longer school day and how that would affect extracurriculars, athletics, and after-school programs.” Dr. Hefner said. “School systems would also have to consider their families and ask how a shortened school week would impact their parents and their jobs.”

Similar to teachers, students deal with burnout and heavy workloads. Student mental health continues to decline as anxiety and depression soar. Senior Nathan Jones argues that schools can play an important role in changing this.

“I think that the five-day school week causes a lot of stress for students, particularly those with heavier workloads in their classes,” Jones said. “The four-day school week would do a lot for the mental health of both students and teachers.”

However, some teachers and parents are skeptical. Senior Abbey Quinn expressed her doubts about the system.

“I don’t think it would make sense for extra-curricular activities,” Quinn said. “I feel like it would be hard to get work done.”

Homewood is not currently considering changing its school schedule, but as schools nationwide begin to alter theirs, the possibility always remains open.