Texas School District Implementing 4-Day Week, Teacher Retention Incentives Amid Staff Shortages

Texas School District Implementing 4-Day Week, Teacher Retention Incentives Amid Staff Shortages
School children wearing masks walk outside Condit Elementary School in Bellaire, Texas, in Dec. 16, 2020. (Francois Picard/AFP via Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts

A Texas school district is adopting a four-day school week for the upcoming year amid staff and teacher shortages.

The Jasper Independent School District (JISD) announced the changes in a social media post on March 16, one day after the JISD Board of Trustees unanimously voted to give teachers and staff retention incentives for the 2022–2023 school year.

As part of the retention incentives, teachers will receive $3,000 and all other staff will receive $1,500, which will each be paid in three installments.

The post said the board was "very excited to be able to strategically use" funds from Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) grants, which are part of the federal CARES Act, to "help teachers and staff who have worked so hard to get our students the education they need while facing countless challenges."

The board also voted to shorten the normal school week and move to a four-day model, noting that "retaining and recruiting quality teachers is very important to all school districts during a nationwide teacher shortage."

JISD’s board decisions were based on input from staff members and the community through surveys, it said.

The first survey, which had 438 responses, saw 64 percent of parents and staff say they were in favor of a four-day week, while the second survey, sent to all JISD teachers, saw 84 percent in favor of a four-day week.

The new four-day format will officially begin in mid-October, according to the district’s calendar.

Fridays will be used by teachers as professional development days, "without missing class time" ISD said, noting that the length of the school day will not be extended and that the new calendar includes "the required minimum of 75,600 minutes" that districts and charter schools must operate, as well as five bonus school days of student instructional time.

District Superintendent John Seybold told ABC’s "Good Morning America" that the updated schooling model was prompted in part by teacher burnout that was further exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move comes as schools and businesses across the United States are facing chronic employee shortages, prompting many to implement attractive pay and bonus schemes.

A February survey conducted by GBAO Strategies, a Democrat polling firm, on behalf of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the United States, found that 55 percent of school educators planned on leaving the profession earlier than expected because of chronic burnout.

"The four-day week kind of makes it a little more manageable for them because there’s so much pressure placed on our teachers," Seybold told ABC. "As a school district, ultimately the best thing we can do for kids is put the best possible teacher in front of them every day."

Seybold also noted that after the changes to the school calendar and the announcement of incentives for teachers and staff, the school district is now down to just one teacher vacancy, whereas prior to this, open high school science positions "had been unfulfilled for two years."

"Where we used to post a job and get no applications, now we're getting multiple applications for every position. So it's kind of worked so far," Seybold said.

Other Texas districts have adopted measures similar to those of JISD, including Devers ISD and Athens ISD.