MINERAL WELLS, Texas — As the vibrant crossing guard helped children along the street at Mineral Well ISD’s Houston Elementary School, she wished students a good weekend.
It was Thursday.
Weekends at Mineral Wells ISD schools begin early after the district implemented a four-day school week for the new school year.
Students and teachers have school Monday through Thursday, and their three-day weekend begins on Friday.
A majority of parents of Houston Elementary students told WFAA they support the switch to a shorter school week.
Sheena Dow was among those who are celebrating.
“I love it,” Dow said. “I love every moment I get with my kids. An extra day with them makes me happy. Everyone needs more balance.”
Another parent, Gabriela Gonzalez, told WFAA she had to switch her work schedule to adjust to the new change.
“It’s something new, it’s different,” Gonzalez said.
Mineral Wells ISD Superintendent John Kuhn said during the last year multiple teachers in his district left, opting to teach at neighboring schools where districts offered a four-day week.
The loss of teachers led Kuhn and school leaders to re-evaluate how they would retain teachers, and it would take more than offering more pay.
“We found that [a four-day week] was a more popular option than we would’ve thought,” Kuhn said.
Of the district’s teachers, 87% supported a four-day week, Kuhn said.
“It’s really imperative for school districts to think outside the box,” Kuhn said.
That’s what he did, and the four-day school week became reality.
His district’s decision to switch comes as schools across North Texas and beyond are struggling to fill teacher vacancies.
This school year, Mineral Wells ISD is welcoming students back with zero teacher vacancies. It’s unclear if the four-day week can be directly attributed for attracting teachers, Kuhn said.
“I think it’s worth it,” Kuhn said. “My staff is really excited.”
He hopes the extra day off will help teachers manage their take-home workload. On Fridays, the district will also offer professional development opportunities for teachers.
To make up the school days lost, the district started the school year earlier and extended the year by a week. Additionally, school days are now around 30 minutes longer than they were before.
After some parents raised concern about finding child care when school is closed on Fridays, Kuhn and his district came up with a potential solution.
The district is offering an optional remediation day, or a catch-up day, on Fridays for students in fourth grade and under.
The district will provide students with meals at the Friday remediation. All students will go home with meals for the three-day weekend thanks to the Backpack Buddy program.
Parents who can’t find child care on Fridays have the option to sign their children up to attend school on Friday, Kuhn said.
“Ultimately, whatever we do, the goal is to do what’s best for kids ,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn said if the district’s STAAR test results improve at the end of the school year, the four-day week will stick around for good.