Crosby Independent School District Superintendent Paula Patterson will officially propose a 4-day district work week to school board members Monday, citing teacher shortages and recent survey results supporting the measure, and if adopted, would make Crosby the largest district in Harris County to do so.
Patterson attributes the teacher shortage to retirements, new positions, or teachers re-careering into other professions. And according to the district, students overwhelmingly support the measure by a count of 74.6 percent, and staff by 71.5 percent, however, community members were less supportive at just 56.3 percent in three surveys.
For example, Patterson said that two years ago, the district had 13 openings following the pandemic — but this school year, there were 40 — and she added that the district is facing a critical shortage of bus drivers as well and feels that a four-day schedule could help alleviate the problem.
Patterson added that the idea could help the district as it cannot afford to offer $10,000 signing bonuses like larger ones in those more populous districts with larger tax revenue.
The Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA) says that about 40 Texas school districts have switched to a four-day school week, largely adopted by smaller rural districts as a recruiting tool for less populated areas where teacher pay is less than in urban or suburban districts.
Patterson said that the district is still digging out from under previous financial mismanagement by the prior administration, and is seeking solutions other than large bonuses, but admitted that the cost savings from such a move would be minimal, but could positively affect the district’s budget, particularly in fuel costs savings just by eliminating one operational day per week.
According to the Houston Chronicle, details of the plan are as follows:
- Monday’s student holidays from September through mid-April
- In August — and a period from April 22 to the end of the school year — the calendar would revert to the traditional five-day week
- The school year would begin earlier than in previous years — on Aug. 7 and run through May 30
- Teachers would work eight and a half hours a day, four days a week
- Their number of work days would decrease from 187 to 176
The 4-day option is just one of several possible calendars for the 2023-2024 school year under consideration, and they all meet the Texas Education Agency requirement of 75,600 minutes of operation while maintaining periodic breaks and observing major U.S. holidays.
A decision on the proposed changes is expected to be made by the end of the month after board members and the public have time to weigh in.
And Crosby district leaders are not alone — many districts in Liberty County are either considering the move or have already approved a measure for a four-day week, and Devers ISD has been on the four-day schedule for several years, but the district has only 200 students for grades one through eight.
Elsewhere in the state, Athens ISD also began implementing a four-day week in 2019, and Mineral Wells ISD, west of Dallas, switched in August 2022 to a shorter week after multiple teachers in this district left for other schools in the area who were operating on the abbreviated schedule.
But, the idea is not garnering support in all rural areas. Huffman ISD considered the four-day week. However, the measure lacked the support of students and the community.
But other rural schools are likely to consider alternative calendars as a way to enhance teacher recruitment and retention, especially given the uncertainty of funding caused by proposed voucher programs that will further deflate the budgets of those districts.
The TCTA has criticized the results of a report on the state of teaching from the Teacher Vacancy Task Force, which was established by Gov. Greg Abbott, and was designed to advise the Texas Legislature on the key areas of teacher compensation, training and support, and working conditions.
The authors of the report wrote that “this trend is concerning, as research suggests teachers who choose ACPs go into the classroom with less experience and have higher attrition rates.”
“Instead of making bold recommendations that meet the severity of need demonstrated by the current crisis in the teacher workforce, many of the recommendations nibble around the edges of existing programs and constructs, are broadly stated, and lack specific tangible actions to take,” said Holly Eaton, TCTA’s director of professional development and advocacy. “It’s a missed opportunity, when the state is experiencing a record budget surplus, to promote strong and meaningful changes to shore up the profession at a time when teachers need it most.”