Written by Kayla James
ELDON, Iowa — As more and more school districts consider making the move to four-day weeks, people have brought up concerns about the impact it would have on students.

KCCI went to the Cardinal Community School District in Eldon and spoke with students, parents, and staff who have been following the four-week plan for nearly two school years.

Cardinal schools are in session Tuesday through Friday. Some Mondays are professional days for staff. As for students, Mondays are usually day three of their weekend.

“I have that Monday to volunteer, to get involved in my community,” said Ajah Cox, a senior at Cardinal High School.

Cox told KCCI that prior to the switch from a five-day week to a four-day week, she was concerned about how it would impact her grades. Now, more than a year and a half into this, Cox says she’s happy with what she’s experiencing.

“It’s a lot less stress mentally because I have that one day to get myself together and prepare for the week,” Cox said.

Prior to the switch, parents recall having their fears, too.

“I wasn’t too sure about it. I wasn’t too sure about how that transition would work for parents. I started looking into it, and I looked at how other school systems were working and I guess I just kind of let it be until it started,” said Jazmine Majin, a mother who has several children in the district. “I definitely prefer it over the five-day school week.”

When districts make the move to a four-day school week, they usually cite teacher retention and recruitment as the reason why. There are common concerns brought up, such as childcare on the day school isn’t in session, children who rely on school for at least one meal, and how it will impact students’ education.

When it comes to the latter, Cardinal students KCCI spoke with say they feel like they’re in a better environment to learn on this schedule.

“It’s so much easier to come to school and learn what I need to learn and only have to do it for four days out of the week,” said Mya Sampson, a sophomore who open-enrolled into Cardinal schools.

According to Superintendent James Craig, the district has seen an increase in their elementary FAST testing. They’ve also seen student and staff attendance go up over the last two years, and recruiting and retaining teachers has improved.

“We have three openings that we’re looking to fill for next school year,” Craig said. “That’s down nearly 75% from what we replaced in the past on a yearly basis.”

The 2023-24 school year is Craig’s first year, meaning he was not around prior to the four-day school week starting. However, many teachers, like middle school behavior disorder teacher Bethany Short, were around.

“I think my nervousness was knowing that my kids would be cared for,” said Short, referring to her students. In addition to their wellbeing, Short worried about students who depend on school for meals. However, she says the food pantry in the high school helps out with that. “We work really had to connect with kids on their level and not necessarily just put them into a box.”

Short also told KCCI that there was a concern about her salary prior to the switch.

“From what I can tell, it’s not impacted anybody negatively,” Short said. “To the point where I would call my dad and was like, ‘Hey, my check is $30 more.’”

Craig told KCCI Cardinal school does not provide child care on Mondays, but says from what the district has observed, availability has not been an issue.

“It’s the extra day of cost of childcare that parents have to come up with,” Craig said.

In fact, some parents say the four-day school weeks bring out a difference in their kids.

“Come Tuesday mornings, my children are well-rested and collected, and they’re ready to take on the rest of the school week,” Majin said.

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