Four-day school week coming to Houston area school district

If you’re driving from Liberty to Beaumont on Highway 90, you might not even realize you passed through Devers.

There’s not even a caution light.

Come August 8th, the Devers ISD school day will run from 7:25 am to 3:35 pm Monday through Thursday until May 28.

Devers ISD Superintendent and principal Elizabeth Harris said they’ve added 35 minutes to each day.

As part of a three-year pilot program, the Devers ISD Board approved a four-day school week for the 2019-2020 district calendar.

Harris said they’ll be out 31 Fridays. Students and staff will still have a week off for Thanksgiving, two weeks for Christmas, Spring Break one week, as well as normal holidays off.

She said a school-wide parent survey had 92.6 percent parent approval for a four-day week.

"That was a huge factor in probably the results of this survey," said Harris.

She said this is another day to spend with your child and make memories with them. Plus, a majority of the students have a stay-at-home parent.

“We have a lot of dads that work for area plants and they're on a schedule where they're off every other Friday," said Harris.

She said they're hoping that could also be a day grandparents, if they live close, could help out.

She said Friday was a big absentee day.

Due to low attendance on Fridays, for the past two years, they’ve been leaving about $17,000 in Austin with recapture money (Robin Hood plan) because they are a Chapter 41 school district.

She also credits teachers. By the way, there are no openings, they’re at capacity for staff.

Devers ISD has 178 students, including some that are transfers. Harris said as of Monday and Tuesday of this week, they’ve received 12 transfer requests.

She said four day school weeks go back to the 70s during the energy crisis.

Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo said schools in West Texas, or rural areas, where there’s extensive amount of travel would probably benefit the most from a four-day school week. He estimated school districts save 20 percent from not traveling on that one day.

He said a four-day school week allows students to be in school during most of the parent’s work day. But, what do you do with them on Fridays? It's easier for small districts to embrace a four day school week.

Capo said there are challenges for different groups of people and he's concerned about very large, diverse districts.

"You may have families where parents are working two, three and four jobs. What will their kids do all day?" said Capo.

He said it's worth looking at, but is concerned for struggling families.

"They don't have a lot of space and support. Any major change like this could fracture their ability to make it through," said Capo.

He said he'd want to move slow and make sure the most vulnerable families are having their needs met.

Capo said HISD would have to implement other school programs to move to a four-day school week.

He said as long as shortening the school week is not because of lowered school funding.

Harris toted Dever ISD’s test scores are great and they’re ranked the #7 district in the state.

If their ranking were to drop they would go back to a five day week after the three year pilot program was finished.

Next school year, Athens ISD in East Texas will go to a four-day school week. Olfen ISD in West Texas has had a four-day school week since 2018.

She said about 25 states in US have a four-day school week, including Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Colorado has about 98 school districts on a four-day week.

Rear view of yellow school buses, New York, USA

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