House bill would allow 4-day week

Brennan Stebbins

A four-day school week is closer to reality for public schools across the state.

The House on Tuesday perfected a bill that would allow school districts to hold classes four days each week instead of five upon a majority vote from the school board. Schools would still be required to have 1,044 hours in the school year, but would hold class 142 days instead of 174.

Webb City Superintendent Ron Lankford said his district would continue with class five days each week, but he understood where the plan could be beneficial for other districts.

“There’s a possibility that some school districts could benefit from that,” Lankford said. “Those that have a rather sparse population and a large geographic area, it would be to their advantage. You have to look at every school district.

“I don’t see it as beneficial to the Webb City school district.”

Supporters of the bill have said it would allow schools to save money on gas costs, but Lankford downplayed the effect it would have on Webb City.

“The cost of operating our busses for all purposes is just about a half of 1 percent of what we operate,” Lankford said. “That’s running every day, so in my mind I don’t know that we ought to make a significant adjustment. What it boils down to is we’re more compact.”

Lankford was also worried about the effects on parents and childcare.

“Most of the school districts in our part of the state are not extremely small districts, and if we went to a four day week a lot of the families would have childcare issues,” he said. “We don’t have an abundance of childcare in this part of the state, so the district might, in saving a little money on gas, be costing our patrons more than what we’d save in gas.”

Other factors contributed to Lankford’s stance on the issue, including the educational impact and extracurricular activities. Lankford is worried about students’ attention spans and fatigue, as well as practices and after-school activities starting later.

State Rep. Kevin Wilson (R-Neosho) sits on the House Appropriations-Education committee, and wants to see school districts be able to discuss themselves whether or not to enact a four-day school week.

“I think it’s a viable option that school districts should have the opportunity to discuss,” Wilson said. “We’ve had a lot of debate on the House floor. They’re trying to define everything in the legislation and I think basically we have legislation that gives the school boards the opportunity to have all these discussions at the local level.

“All we’re saying in the four day legislation is it gives the school districts one more option if it works for their community and the school board would then have to make those determinations. Is there enough daycare? What are the impacts on working families? Because we know we don’t have a situation anymore where mom stays home and dad goes to work.

“Those are valid concerns but every community is different and if the school wanted to start an extended school on the Friday, like an enhanced school of some kind, that would be something up to the school district.”

The House bill passed 98-62 Feb. 24 with all southwest Missouri lawmakers voting in favor of the measure.

A similar bill in the Senate has State Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) intrigued, according to a release from the senator.

“The four-day school week could be especailly helpful for small, rural school districts,” Nodler said in the release.

He said more than 100 schools in nine states have four-day school weeks, and the schedule has worked.

“Usually, these schedules apply to small, rural districts and some of these schools noticed improved morale and increased attendance,” Nodler said.

The House version is HB 382 sponsored by Rep. Gayle Kingery (R-Poplar Bluff). The Senate version is SB 345 sponsored by Sen. Brad Lager (R-Maryville).

The Senate measure has not yet reached that chamber’s floor. It received a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Feb. 18