Arizona school district moves to 4-day weeks to boost teacher recruitment, retention
PHOENIX — An Arizona school district moved to four-day weeks this year in an effort to boost teacher recruitment and retention and it’s working, according to one principal.
Casa Grande Elementary School District’s board voted 3-2 in April to make the change from the traditional five-day week.
“Our No. 1 driving force is certainly teacher retention and hiring qualified staff,” Jeff Lavender, principal at Villago Middle School, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad on Monday.
“We hired 67 new teachers this year and only four were new to the teaching profession.”
Lavender said at the start of the last academic year, the district in Pinal County had 17 classrooms staffed by either substitutes or district personnel.
This year, only a third-grade classroom started the school year in July without a certified teacher.
“We have had some very difficult times the last few years hiring highly qualified and certified teachers to go into our classrooms,” Lavender said.
An additional 30 minutes to each school day and one professional development day on a Friday each month were included as part of the change.
Lavender said the schedule shift has allowed teachers to focus on how to improve efficiency and student achievement.
“These are things that we just not have had the opportunity to do in previous years because we’re constantly scrambling to find people,” Lavender said.
The plan has been supported by most involved.
Lavender said 90% of district employees and 72% of the community surveyed prior to the vote were in favor of the change.
The district is utilizing the city and the local Boys and Girls Club on Fridays for students who need it. Teachers also have the ability to volunteer on Fridays for extra opportunities.
“It has really not been a huge issue with parents finding a place for their students to be on Fridays,” Lavender said.