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A regional collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

More Mountain West school districts are switching to – or considering – four-day weeks

A group of high schoolers sit at desks on their laptops.
Hugh Cook
Wyoming Public Media
A group of students take virtual math classes at Newcastle High School in Wyoming.

News brief: 

Four-day school weeks are becoming more popular nationally as education systems struggle with teacher recruitment and retention. And the Mountain West is keen on truncated scheduling, especially in rural areas.

Every state in the region has at least one school district on a four-day schedule, including more than half of Colorado districts, 50-plus Idaho districts and dozens of Utah schools. Wyoming has more schools ditching the five-day schedule every year, as do Nevada and Montana.

Longer hours in classrooms typically offset days off in the adjusted four-day calendars.

Teton School District 401 in eastern Idaho recently floated the idea of a truncated schedule. Leslie Hoopes, an elementary school principal there, said the extra day off would give teachers additional flexibility to plan their curricula, collaborate with others and tend to the individual needs of their pupils.

“We could make such a big impact for students,” she told the school board. “Sure, it's nice having a day off. But it's extra nice when you don't hate your job.”

Teton 401 turned over 46 percent of its staff last year, according to Superintendent Megan Christiansen. She said a four-day schedule could help attract more teachers from the surrounding region – and convince them to stay in their jobs longer.

“Just looking at the turnover from this school year…it's very shocking, and it's very telling, and we need to do something about it,” she said. “We can hire all the quality people you want, but if our system doesn't support them, they're going to leave.”

Some experts have warned that four-day school weeks hurt student test scores. The schedules can also impact working families who don’t have the money to spend on additional child care and food costs.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Will Walkey is currently a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. Through 2023, Will was WPR's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. He first arrived in Wyoming in 2020, where he covered Teton County for KHOL 89.1 FM in Jackson. His work has aired on NPR and numerous member stations throughout the Rockies, and his story on elk feedgrounds in Western Wyoming won a regional Murrow award in 2021.
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