Post Falls adopts four-day school week to boost attendance and retain teachers

The Post Falls School District will shift to a four-day school week in August, joining at least 82 other Idaho districts and charters that have made the change.

District superintendent Dena Naccarato hopes the April 10 decision will boost attendance and stymie staff turnover.

“Here we are, in hopes that we see an increase in both staff and student attendance, and that we retain people, because we’ll never compete with Washington wages,” said Naccarato in a Monday interview.

Over the past two years, Post Falls has lost over a third of its certificated staff.

The North Idaho district is nestled next to the Washington-Idaho border, and many teachers can easily find out-of-state jobs that pay thousands of dollars more per year — the average teacher salary in Washington is over $10,000 higher than Idaho’s.

So, the superintendent began exploring solutions to the district’s heavy turnover rate.

In the process, she heard from other district leaders that switching to a four-day week resulted in higher attendance rates among students, without significantly impacting test scores. And attendance will be even more important next school year, because it will impact school funding for the first time since before the pandemic.

With the four-day change, staff in other districts also had more time for lesson planning and professional development, and were generally less stressed and more satisfied, according to Naccarato.

So in October, the superintendent sent out the first of three surveys to gauge interest in a four-day week. The staff survey returned with 84% support, and the parent survey generated 63% support.

In January, a second survey was distributed, asking patrons to weigh in on different calendars:

  • Calendar 1: 35 daily minutes added to K-8, 55 daily minutes added to 9-12, school year ends June 6.
  • Calendar 2: 25 daily minutes added to K-8, 45 daily minutes added to 9-12, school year ends June 13.
  • Calendar 3: 15 daily minutes added to K-8, 35 daily minutes added to 9-12, school year ends June 20.

Staff respondents overwhelmingly chose the first option, as did 45% of parents. Students also got to weigh in — close to 70% said they favored a four-day week.

And on April 10, the school board voted unanimously to instate a four-day week for the 2023-24 school year, as reported by Devin Weeks of the Coeur d’Alene Press.

But the decision received some pushback.

An article published by the Idaho Tribune — a self-proclaimed conservative media outlet — called the decision a “scam” and accused the district of “emotionally blackmailing” district patrons into approving a nearly $12 million, two-year supplemental levy before switching to a four-day week.

But on Monday, Naccarato clarified that the levy has no connection to the four-day week.

Close to $10 million of the levy is a renewal of an already existing fund, covering teacher and staff salaries, school maintenance costs, extracurricular activities and costs related to the Kootenai Technical Education Campus.

The remaining $2 million — a new ask — will go to school safety needs: additional school resource officers and campus safety, access control throughout the district and security camera upgrades.

The switch to a four-day week isn’t about saving money, Naccarato said. Instead, the goal is to improve academic outcomes while also curating a workplace where educators feel valued — and where they’ll stay.

And along with the four-day week, the district will provide free childcare to working parents on Fridays, and are in the process of getting a grant to provide free grab-and-go meals for students who rely on school breakfasts and lunches.

Naccarato said she’s hopeful about the board’s decision.

“When you’ve got nearly a supermajority supporting a four-day week and you don’t listen to them, you’re gonna get in trouble,” the superintendent said. “And when you have 30% of the people who are unhappy, they’re going to be unhappy. Ultimately, we don’t want any of our patrons unhappy, so I’m hopeful that the board’s decision was the right decision.”

Post Falls’ four-day week schedule will begin in August 2023. In March 2024, the district will revisit the decision and decide whether to continue or revert back to a traditional schedule.

Further reading: More rural districts transition to a four-day week in hopes of attracting teachers

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

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