ST. LOUIS – Students and teachers around the St. Louis area are getting ready to return to school in the upcoming weeks. Though getting back into the school routine might look a little different for St. Louis compared to other parts of the state.

Four-day school weeks are becoming popular in some parts of Missouri, particularly rural counties, to combat teacher shortages statewide. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimated around a 5% shortage in qualified teachers and full-time employees statewide in a December 2021 report.

According to the latest data from the Missouri DESE, at least 122 school districts, or nearly 22% of all public school districts in Missouri, will begin the new school year with a four-day school week. The state has had at least 100 school districts operating under a four-day school week for each of the last three years.

Supporters of four-day school weeks say that the format could allow districts to save more money and help with teacher recruitment and retention. Opponents argue this structure leads to longer school days for students and could also pose financial challenges to some families who depend on a five-day structure.

“Attending a four-day week was initially thought to be a means to reduce spending, however, in
more recent years many districts are using this as a means to attract and retain quality teachers
when unable to offer competitive salaries,” said Missouri DESE in a Jan. 2020 report.

In the St. Louis region, there aren’t many school districts that have diverted to a four-day school week and none in Missouri within 30 miles of St. Louis City.

According to Missouri DESE, these are the five closest school districts that have adopted a four-day school week over the last three years.

  • Crystal City 47 School District (Jefferson County, 34 miles from St. Louis)
  • Grandview R-II School District (Jefferson County, 44 miles from St. Louis)
  • Sunrise R-IX School District (Jefferson County, 53 miles from St. Louis)
  • Elsberry R-II School District (Lincoln County, 61 miles from St. Louis)
  • Warren Co. R-III School District (Warren County, 62 miles from St. Louis)

Data from the Missouri DESE showed four-day work weeks were common for dozens of school districts in southwest and northeast Missouri.

Missouri has allowed four-day school weeks since2009, when a Senate Bill introducing the concept was approved. These school are still required to have 142 days of instruction and 1,044 attendance hours over the course of an academic school year.