Budget Constraints Prompt Some OK School Districts To Adopt Four-Day School Weeks
OKLAHOMA CITY - Lack of funding has pushed many Oklahoma school districts to a four-day week, but some districts have found there are other benefits.
Alisa Cox has been a first grade teacher for 10 years. However, she says the last three have been the most rewarding of her career, not because of money, but because of time.
"We're able to read more," said Cox. "We're able to do math more."
Students in Locust Grove go to school four days a week and are off on Mondays. The longer days allow kids to be pulled out for small group instruction, polishing their skills in math and reading.
"They're moving forward wherever they're at," said Cox. "If we need more skills, we're working on that. If they're ready for second grade, we're moving forward."
"Just in one school year, we saw a ten point percentage growth in one grade in math, just in one school year," said Lori Helton, Locust Grove Superintendent.
Superintendent Helton says the school is also saving money, particularly on transportation costs, money that's being used for things like computers, new curriculum and even teacher bonuses. The approach has become so popular that this year, one in five Oklahoma kids is in a district operating on a four-day school week.
"That's extremely troubling to me," Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said of the trend.
Hofmeister says Oklahoma already has one of the shortest school years in the country and worries about the long term impact of four-day school weeks.
"We are very concerned that there will be a setback that when it is realized, it's too late for that child or that grade for them," she said.
However, at Locust Grove, administrators also fight another trend, a lack of teachers. So, the four-day school weeks helps recruit new teachers including one from Arkansas who was earning $7,000 more a year. Still, Hofmeister is unconvinced and point out that even if districts see an increase in scores, most still lag far behind the national average.
"That's the bar that we are going to need to achieve and I believe that takes all hands on deck, all week long," she said.