AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s hard to get moving on a Monday and now students in a tiny Central Texas school district will get the option of starting their school week on a Tuesday instead.
Dime Box Independent School District will become the second school district in the state with shorter four-day weeks, according to the Texas Education Agency. Starting next school year, children will be required to attend school Tuesday through Friday, but the campus will remain open on Mondays as an optional day. Parents can still choose to send their children to class five days a week, but Mondays will be structured a little different.
“Whenever you’re talking about now having Monday off for people, the travel opportunities that that creates, the family time that that creates,” Superintendent Nicholas West said.
In a letter to parents, West said there are certain Mondays in August when students will be required to show up and also on the days of STAAR testing. The district is also extending the school day by 35 minutes. The state allowed for flexibility once it changed the requirements for attending school from a set number of days to a set number of hours.
“If it is a student that is behind and a parent is concerned, and they send that student to us, we’re going to have the ability to work with them one on one,” West said.
The school district in Lee County, located about an hour east of Austin, has a student population of about 160 students. All students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12th grade are under one roof.
Officials with Olfen Independent School District, the first school district in Texas to move to a four-day school week, told KXAN the move was a smart one.
“Olfen ISD needed something to distinguish itself,” said Superintendent Gabriel Zamora. “It’s worked out — it was a tremendous boost to our enrollment.”
The small district near San Angelo has more than doubled in population since it decided to shorten the school week at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. Zamora said they jumped from 45 students to 105 students this year.
Zamora is expecting about 125 students next year.
Students are required to attend class Monday through Thursday with Fridays being optional unless a student is not passing their classes and needs extra help with their academics.
Zamora said the added focus on academics and extra one-on-one time teachers can now dedicate to students on the “flex” day is also paying off.
The district was facing closure due to three years consecutive years under an “improvement required” rating. Zamora said the very first year it implemented the shorter school week, the district earned a “met standard” rating. The district has been able to maintain the high rating and barely missed being an “A” district this year by one point, according to Zamora.
Teachers also have more time to plan on Fridays, or “wind down” days as they like to call them, Zamora says, which helps gear up for the following week.
About 70% of students still show up on Fridays, but a lot of it depends on what special activities the school has planned such as field trips. The younger the child, the more they tend to show up while the older students choose more to not attend on flex day.
When given the option to move back to a traditional five-day week, the staff at Olfen ISD elected to stick with the four-day weeks.
A number of other school administrators have reached out to Zamora to learn more as they consider breaking from tradition.