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Independence has switched to a 4-day school week. What do families need to know?

Students in Independence will now attend class from Tuesday through Friday now that the school district has adopted a shorter school week.
Independence School District
Students in Independence will attend class from Tuesday through Friday now that the school district has adopted a shorter school week.

Independence is by far the largest district in Missouri to make the switch to a shorter school week, leaving questions for families about what they can expect.

This school year will look a lot different for students in Independence, who head back to the classroom this week.

The Independence School District is the latest Missouri school district — most of them small and rural — adopting a four-day school week.

At the start of the last school year, 25% of the state’s school districts had a four-day week.

With nearly 14,000 students, Independence is by far the largest district in Missouri to make the switch. The next-largest is the Warren County School District west of St. Louis, with more than 3,000 students.

The lack of precedent on this scale means many families don’t know what to expect.

“We've had the response from, ‘Hey, this is great. One less day a week, I have to get my kids up,’” Jennifer Manuleleua, senior vice president of community development at Community Services League. “All the way to ‘I have no idea what I'm going to do with my children and how am I going to make sure they're cared for?’”

Here’s a look at what we know about the school’s new schedule and resources for families:

Why is the district making the switch?

Superintendent Dale Herl said the change was made to help recruit and retain staff. It comes amid an ongoing shortage of teachers and other workers across the state.

Herl said the school district received more than four times as many applications for teaching positions as last year.

“We made this transition hoping that this would result in having our staffing completed and having the very best teachers,” Herl said. “And we can very confidently say that that has occurred.”

Shelley Lauber, a teacher at Truman High School, spoke in favor of the switch at the district’s board of education meeting in December where members voted 6-1 to make the schedule change.

“Money is nice. Money does not bring happiness, time and feeling like you can just regain your energy, regain your lust for your job,” Lauber said. “I can tell you after a three-day weekend, I have a totally different viewpoint going back to school than I do after a regular two-day weekend. I feel ready to see my kids again.”

The school district also passed a tax levy earlier in August aimed at raising teacher and staff salaries.

How will the new schedule look?

The school district will shift to a Tuesday through Friday schedule. The school day will also be extended by 40 minutes, so the district’s total instruction time remains the same despite the fewer school days.

The district plans to offer enrichment opportunities, remedial education and child care for students on Monday, referred to as the “fifth day.” Professional development days will also move from Fridays to Mondays.

On weeks with existing days off — like Thanksgiving — students will attend normal classes on Monday.

Students will also attend class on Mondays this week through the week after Labor Day, as well as the first week of the second semester.

Herl said that means the number of instructional days will drop from 170 to about 155 — about a 9% reduction.

What can students do on the “fifth day”?

On Mondays, the district will offer different activities called “enrichment programming,” such as tutoring, clubs, sports and field trips during two different time slots: from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. and from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m.

The activities will be held at different combined building sites assigned to each school in the district.


  • Students in kindergarten through the eighth grade have the option of attending running/walking club, reading club, arts and crafts club, board game club or team sports club. These clubs are led by teachers at no cost to families.
  • Middle school and high school students will also have the option of attending clubs that will depend on what’s offered at their building site. Club information will be made available as they are formed throughout the school year. 

Learning opportunities:

  • Students in kindergarten through fifth grade who are at least one year behind academically can attend the district’s instructional tutoring program called “Learning League.” The program is free and invite-only.
  • Students in middle school and high school can attend free academic support programming that includes credit recovery, attendance recovery and tutoring.
  • The district will also offer enrichment programming for life skills, functional skills and communication behavior social skills. This programming will be “alternative, non-instructional activities.” 
  • High school juniors and seniors can take college courses at Metropolitan Community College - Blue River on Mondays. Students can take the courses at a discount and earn up to 24 college credit hours.

The caveat to these activities is district-provided transportation will only be available for students attending the Learning League. Herl said lunch will also be provided at different sites at no cost to students or staff.

How much will child care cost?

Herl said child care is one issue they anticipated when approaching the possibility of a four-day week and discussed with other school districts who had already made the switch. However, he said many told him that child care wasn’t as big an issue as they anticipated.

“Everyone said, ‘You're going to plan it,’ which we should, and we are… and ‘at the end of the day, it ends up you're not going to have near as many students needing the services as you thought,’” Herl said. “Now, time will tell if that's the case.”

Child care on Mondays for kindergarten through eighth grade students will cost $30 a day for regular use or $45 for single-use. The school district will also continue to offer before- and after-school care at a reduced cost.

Herl said he anticipates child care costing slightly less for families who use all of the district’s services, but he can’t account for an individual family’s savings. Transportation will not be provided for the district’s child care program.

What are some concerns about the four-day week?

Transportation, childcare and food for students are among the biggest concerns that Manuleleua said she’s heard from families about the four-day week.

But she says another part of it is the uncertainty of what the different schedule will bring.

“I think part of it right now is truly the unknown. That is what's causing a lot of, ‘I don't know, well, the school says they're going to have resources, but they've hinted that maybe transportation’s not going to be available,’” Manuleleua said. “So what does that mean? And what does that look like?”

Ahead of the school year starting, Manuleleua said the nonprofit has been listening to families about what resources they’re concerned about and how her organization can connect them with other community partners to meet their needs.

Manuleleua said CSL is partnering with the Mid-Continent Public Library Reading Rocketto see how it can provide literacy support and activities at its BlendWell Community Cafe and Hawthorne Place locations on Mondays.

Manuleleua said she believes the district is making plans to support families who have more needs, but nonprofit and other community partners will be better able to serve families' needs once they know what challenges they’re facing when the school year starts.

“It's just, how we're going to do it once it all hits?” Manuleleua said. “And so we all want to wrap around and support the best we can.”

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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