With four-day week, R-III aims to keep more teachers

By Derrick Forsythe, Record Staff Reporter
Posted 11/7/19

Starting next year, schools in the Warren County R-III School District will have school only Tuesday through Friday, four days a week, and their days will be extended by 33 minutes. Start time will …

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With four-day week, R-III aims to keep more teachers


Starting next year, schools in the Warren County R-III School District will have school only Tuesday through Friday, four days a week, and their days will be extended by 33 minutes. Start time will be 7:45 a.m. and dismissal will be at 3:13 p.m.

Following more than an hour of deliberation and feedback from the community during its regular monthly meeting Jan. 10, the R-III school board voted 6-1 to amend the calendar beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

At the meeting Superintendent Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith addressed a capacity crowd. 

“We can really change the model,” said Klinginsmith, as R-III will now be the largest district in the state to utilize a four-day week.

He says the focus is on meeting three core values, with particular emphasis on attracting and retaining qualified staff.

“We can’t compete with money, but we can compete with time,” said Klinginsmith. “Time is more valuable than money, so it gives us a bargaining chip.”

Klinginsmith says he spoke with former R-III educators who moved to districts in the east to learn if having additional time out will be an incentive to remain in the district. 

“We asked our administration to come up with solutions to our problems here, and one of our problems is teacher retention,” said Board President John Clinger.

“When you have a high teacher turnover you are constantly retraining your curriculum,” added board member Ginger Schenck. “I do think our high turnover affects our ability to really dig down into our curriculum.”

Klinginsmith noted that keeping up with the salary schedules of districts such as Wentzville and Francis Howell isn’t feasible, so R-III is looking for innovative ways to attract teachers.

“We look back at correlation to student achievement,” said Klinginsmith. “Attendance and teachers with master’s degrees have strong correlations.”

Klinginsmith says one of the hopes is to encourage teachers with higher education to stay and to improve attendance through a more favorable schedule for students who might need to work or have other barriers.

The change was met with some contention, as three community members shared concerns about possible outcomes.

One particular question was the impact the shorter week will have on hourly staff. Pam Van Horn, a food service worker in the district, asked about the security of her benefits and the stability of her future with the changes.

Board members, who each provided individual feedback as to their stance on the matter, reassured Van Horn and her colleagues that maintaining those benefits is of utmost concern.

Mark Diller reflected those sentiments, stating that even a 10 to 15 percent decrease in wages could be detrimental to those hourly workers. “In a place like Warrenton, $11 an hour jobs are pretty important,” said Diller.

He also voiced concern about the potential increase in juvenile crime with shorter weeks.

Additional feedback centered about the brevity of the process, with the first public mention of the possible changes coming Nov. 29.

“It seems that from inception to tonight’s vote is barely 40 days,” said Diller.

“I think the decision to go to a four-day school week is a rush,” added Bob Dyche. “There are other avenues out there with the potential to help our students to learn better. This isn’t the silver bullet, and I don’t agree with it right now. It’s too progressive, I feel.”

Board votes

The board indicated that discussions and research have been taking place for much longer, as each member reflected on the reasoning behind the vote.

Board members Dr. Chad Smith, Allan Dreyer, John Clinger, Ginger Schenck, Franci Schwartz and Laurie Wenzel were all in favor, while Rodger Tucker opposed.

“The general consensus is that they feel the whole process is rushed,” echoed Tucker, in relation to the community feedback.

Tucker discussed the unknowns, including the supports and resources the district will use to handle child care for students on Mondays when not in session.

In regard to those families impacted by students being off Mondays, Klinginsmith says the district will still offer care on that day to mimic the school hours.

“I share the same concerns with three out of the four that talked tonight,” said Tucker. “When we’re looking at this as a financial situation, I don’t think we have the planning ahead of us. I’m looking at these care days and I think these costs are going to climb significantly.”

Additional concern was raised about the possible impact the shorter weeks could have on student achievement. Board members cited that their research did not reveal any notable correlation between instruction time and achievement. 

“The consensus from all of these studies is that student achievement is not different whether you have them in school four days or five,” said Smith. “We all have our opinions, but overall the data hasn’t shown significant differences in that.”

Klinginsmith says the worthwhile correlation has been shown between student achievement and the experience and education level of teachers. He hopes that through the revised schedule more educators will be enticed to make R-III their home for the long term.

The administration pointed out the potential financial benefits for a district that has consistently struggled to compete when it comes to salary schedules.

“This would save us around $300,000, which amounts to almost $1 million over the course of three years,” said Klinginsmith.

R-III Administration Building