CANTON, Ohio (WJW) — This upcoming school year, two Ohio school districts are making a radical change – transitioning to a four-day school week.
It’s a move administrators say will help reduce teacher burnout and help retain teachers amid a nationwide shortage of teachers.
“It’s a win-win for not only the teacher,” said intervention specialist Debbi Kilpatrick. “It’s a win for the student.”
Kilpatrick teaches at Canton Harbor High School, a public charter home to about 130 students that boasts it’s the first in the area to shake up tradition.
“You feel like you’re succeeding, you’re more successful if you’re able to do that versus feeling like you’re just treading water,” said Kilpatrick. “You just feel like you’re going under here.”
According to the National Education Association, teachers are suffering not only from burnout but stagnant wages in an often-underappreciated profession.
Principal Steven Nichols told Fox 8 in early July he believes the four-day school week is a solution to help remedy the issue. Students will report for two hours of instruction on Fridays, then be able to leave for other career or work opportunities including internships, job shadowing, or career training. Teachers still report for a full day of work.
“So they can take that time, recharge their batteries,” said Nichols about staff. “Create creative engaging lessons, connect with parents and really give our students that opportunity to find success.”
The school is following in the footsteps of another near Cincinnati. North College Hill City School District announced its the first in Ohio to adopt a four day school week plan.
“Dealing with my staff and seeing the pain they were going through struggles as far as burnout and I knew I just needed to do something,” said district Superintendent Eugene Blalock Jr.
Blalock said the idea was sparked by an article pondering if the shorter school week could “save the profession.”
“We knew that our attendance, our staff attendance was not good,” he said. “Our teachers were not doing well. We could not find substitute teachers and it just seemed like as you walked through the building you just saw individuals, just the energy levels of individuals were down. You could just tell that they were struggling.”
The district of about 1,400 students will use Monday for blended learning where students stay home while completing assignments. Childcare arrangements will be offered for younger students. Teachers will report for a full school day.
“The world is constantly changing,” said Nichols. “The work environment is completely different than it was two, three years ago. So why not give them an opportunity to find a way to fit what the world’s doing right now to give them an opportunity to have a little bit of flexibility.”
Kilpatrick said the change is worth a shot.
“Gives us that fifth day to collaborate as a group, as a team, and it allows us to better address our individual student needs. And as a whole, you feel better,” she said.
Leadership at both school districts said they have the support of staff and parents.