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Central Texas school district switches to 4-day school week to help with teacher retention

The school district decided to change the 2023-2024 calendar as a solution to help keep teachers on staff.

ROCKDALE, Texas — Rockdale ISD is the latest school district in Texas to shift to 4-day weeks – and that has called the future of children's education into question.

Rockdale ISD Superintendent Dr. Denise Monzingo explained that keeping teachers in her district has been difficult, and the district had to find a way to give them the extra time and support to succeed in the classroom.

Rockdale ISD, which is 60 miles northeast of Austin, has been doing half-days on Wednesdays.

"The half day has been great for teachers with planning purposes and things like that. But what it hasn't allowed us is that time to do true professional development with teachers, with the shortage in teachers the way it is," Monzingo said. "This [4-day week] allows us on some of those Fridays to really concentrate on individualized support and working with our teachers to get them in a better place."

However, parents have raised concerns about child care options and the possibility of longer school days. Monzingo said the district currently has a federal grant and provides after-school care but did mention that once the end of the school year inches closer, the district will further address where the help is needed.

"What we're doing right now is we had some ideas and we're trying to get them all finalized and get them out to our parents so that there is some options for parents on those Fridays," Monzingo said.

In terms of students and teachers getting longer school days, Monzingo said that school leaders will move the school year up about a week in the fall to make-up for any instructional time that may be lost with the 4-day week. 

According to the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA), there are around 40 school districts in the state that are transitioning to 4-day weeks. TSTA President Ovidia Molina explained how districts have been forced to get creative in order to keep teachers and save money.

For example, Monzingo noted how retaining teachers during the current school year has been tough. This district was able to fill all of their positions, but said it found a way to "grow your own teachers." 

The district partnered with a university and a certification group to help speed up the process for teacher aides, the professionals who assist teachers in the classroom, to come in and work, according to Monzingo. 

"We were able to fill our positions. Now we're a little worried about next year. Rockdale is growing and what do need and we're going to be adding teachers like at every elementary grade," Monzingo said. "And so that makes us, you know, makes us a little nervous. But we're excited about the calendar."

Molina stressed the best course of action for residents is to reach out to their local representatives and ensure education is a top priority for lawmakers. 

"This is something that we need to focus on to make sure that we are talking about helping our educators and our students now, but also ensuring that we have future educators," Molina said. "Our state should be doing more for our school districts and for our students."

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