Independence Schools shifting to a four-day school week

Public school districts in the Kansas City metro are moving to a four-day school week


Cheeia Vang/Roo News

Adjunct instructor Alicia Wallace weighs in on the schedule change.

Mia Musson, Staff Writer

  The Independence School District is transitioning to a four-day school week as schools across the country experience teacher shortages. 

  The district hopes the change of schedule will boost recruitment and retention of staff within the Independence district. 

  On Dec. 13, the Independence School District board voted six to one to shorten the school week to four days. Beginning in the 2023-2024 school year, students in grades pre-K to 12 will attend classes from Tuesday to Friday. The transition will extend each school day by 35 minutes.

  Alicia Wallace, an adjunct instructor in UMKC’s education department, worked in public school education for 34 years. As an educator, Wallace has concerns regarding how the change will affect students.

  “I want all children to have the proper education, but I am truly worried about our children who come from low-income households, minorities, or our special needs children not getting what they need,” Wallace said.

  According to Wallace, all students need engagement and differentiation throughout their day-to-day lives, which cannot be guaranteed with a shortage of quality and well-educated teachers. As a result, she suggests teachers be brought up to date through ongoing professional development on that fifth day of the four-day week.

  “On that fifth day, teachers must attend effective professional development in order for the necessary skills and best practices to be in effect,” Wallace said.

  Although she has concerns, Wallace believes the positive impact will be the attraction factor for new teachers. 

  Wendy Baird, Independence School District parent of two, thinks the opposite: the district will lose quality teachers as a result of the decision. 

  Baird believes this change will benefit high school students, not middle or elementary students like her two children. The district has partnered with the Metropolitan Community College to offer high school students an Early College Program. No equivalent partnerships or alternatives have been made for younger students concerning childcare. 

  “My son will be in sixth grade, and I’m very thankful that I don’t have to ask him to watch my first grader, but I can’t guarantee that all families will be able to do that,” Baird said. 

  Looking at the overall achievement and performance levels within the Independence district compared to surrounding neighborhoods, Baird is apprehensive about how those numbers will change with one less day a week. 

  “At best, there will be a little bit of a decline in their achievement and performance, but sadly the district is struggling,” Baird said. “We are 20 to 25 points below our neighboring school districts in reading and math proficiency levels, so it’s hard for me to understand how going one fewer day of school a week is good for our kids.” 

  As an educator, Wallace believes each student’s education and development should be recognized and put first. 

  “I don’t want to put our children into that to find out where it’s hurting them instead of helping them; that’s not our goal as educators; it should always be what is best for the children,” Wallace said. 

  With the decision already made and in effect, many families with uneasiness are hopeful for the best outcome for their children, whatever that ends up looking like. 

  “I hope this is a success for the school district,” Baird said. “I hope it’s wonderful, and I hope it works because if it doesn’t, it is going to hurt a lot of kids, and it’s going to hurt a lot of teachers, and it is going to hurt our entire community.”

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