ST. LOUIS – Back-to-school time has arrived. This week or next week marks the start of a new school year for hundreds of districts around Missouri.

Depending on where your children live in the Show Me State, they could be preparing for the traditional five-day school week or possibly a shortened four-day school week. Chances are, if your children live in the St. Louis area, they will not have that extra day off school.

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 5.4% shortage in qualified teachers and full-time employees statewide in a December 2022 report.

The Kansas City Star reports that nine more Missouri school districts have opted for four-day school weeks this year. That adds to more than 120 that Missouri DESE reported with the alternative learning model last year, or roughly one-quarter of all public school districts in Missouri.

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)

The Kansas City Star reports that two other districts within 100 miles of St. Louis – Crawford County R-II and Steelville R-III – will switch to four-day school weeks this year.

The Independence School District in the Kansas City metro will also switch to a four-day school. Serving around 14,000 kids, it’s the largest Missouri school district to shorten its school week.

In a FOX 2 report last year, Missouri DESE hinted that shortened weeks are being used as a perk to hire and retain teachers amid shortages. 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.

Data from the Missouri DESE showed four-day work weeks were common for dozens of school districts in southwest and northeast Missouri. At least 100 school districts in Missouri have arranged four-day school weeks for three years.

Missouri has allowed four-day school weeks since 2009, when a Senate Bill introducing the concept was approved. School districts under this structure are still required to have 142 days of instruction and 1,044 attendance hours over the course of an academic school year.