Locust Grove Schools Uses Four-Day Week To Recruit Teachers

Thursday, April 27th 2017, 8:18 pm

Oklahoma school districts consider a four-day week and the decision might come down to savings.

But, one district says there are other benefits. Locust Grove made the switch two years ago.

And they didn't do it for the money.

Third-graders at Locust Grove go to school four days a week, from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. They're off on Mondays.

And their teacher says they're learning more.

"We've seen huge gains in reading and math on state standardized tests.  Our students get more intervention," said Joy Tatum, 3rd-grade teacher. 

Testing shows Locust Grove 3rd graders improved proficiency in reading and math, and it started the first year of shorter weeks and longer days.

"We have more time on task; every minute counts and there is no downtime anymore - it's all focused instruction," Tatum said. 

The improvements were a welcome side effect of the four-day week, but it wasn't that, or the money, that led to the decision.

The improvements were welcomed, but not the reason they made the decision.

"We went to a four-day week to be able to recruit and retain teachers," said Lori Helton, Locust Grove Superintendent. 

Faced with teachers leaving for retirement, or more money elsewhere, Locust Grove used the four-day week as a recruitment tool.

"The day after the board decided to go to a four-day week, in an open, public meeting, we started having people walk in unsolicited to give us resumes," Helton said. 

And now, the district has no problem hiring.

One teacher even came back from Arkansas. 

"The four-day week was a big draw," said Kim Felden, who is a Special Education teacher. "The new schedule was more important than a big raise."

Felden said that schedule allows her Mondays off, to plan.

The teachers believe it's the extra time to plan lessons and more time each day to teach them that has helped their students the most.

The district is saving money, but from the beginning, the goal was just to hold on to their teachers.

"We discussed how can we give them something just as valuable as money and that's time," Helton said. 

The superintendent says is saving money, at least $68,000 dollars a year just on bus service, and that helps them keep paying the teachers.