Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators
/ATPE/media/News-Magazine/20_news_Spring_Feature_4DayWeek.jpg?ext=.jpg /ATPE/media/News-Magazine/20_news_Spring_Feature_4DayWeek.jpg?ext=.jpg

Solving the Case of the Mondays: How One Central Texas School District Implemented a 4-Day Week

Nobody really enjoys Mondays. It can be hard to wake up and start moving after sleeping in over the weekend. People can be grumpier. Educators not only have to overcome their own dislike of Mondays but also find a way to motivate students who might not be excited about another week of school. But Mondays are just a fact of life.

Or are they? One small school district in Central Texas has found a way to make them a thing of the past.

At the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, Dime Box ISD implemented a four-day school week where Mondays are now optional. Students are only required to be on campus Tuesday through Friday. On Monday, the district campus is open for what it calls a “flex day.” Parents can send their children to school if they have no childcare options, and students who need extra academic help can work with teachers and tutors to catch up.

Switching to a four-day week may sound radical, but it’s actually not a new concept. According to research from the Center for Reinventing Public Education, 550 school districts in 25 states have a four-day week. However, it’s significantly rarer in Texas.

Dime Box Superintendent Nicholas West had heard about these types of schedules before, and the idea intrigued him. It could allow both students and staff more time to spend with their families. Yet the main reason more schools don’t adopt this schedule is due to childcare concerns when parents are still working five days a week—a concern West shared when he first considered proposing this type of schedule.

“What do you do about the off day, when all the parents have to work?” West recalls asking himself. “I knew that this would be dead on arrival if we didn’t have a solution to that. There is no way I would ever support this if we could not answer that question.”

West did not have an answer until he met Superintendent Gabriel Zamora of Olfen ISD, the first district in Texas to switch to a four-day week, at an education conference.

Zamora was motivated to switch to the four-day week in order to help his rural West Texas district grow its enrollment and compete with larger districts across the state.

“I wanted to inspire growth,” Zamora says. “The first year we made the change, we were such a tiny district. I think we had about 60 students. Now we have over 130. We are ahead of schedule of where we want to be. We have more students applying than we have space for.”

Zamora attributes this growth to the improved quality of life created by the shorter week. Students and their families now have more time to spend together. Zamora also credits this with his district’s ability to compete for top educators with larger, more well-funded districts.

“The staff we have been able to put together despite being a rural district that underpays compared to the state is in large part because of the quality of life that we have been able to offer,” Zamora says.

Before Olfen implemented the four-day week, Zamora faced the predictable questions about what to do with students on that fifth day.

“We heard over and over again, ‘What are we going to do with our children on that fifth day?’” Zamora recounts. “I was brainstorming and thought, ‘What if we go to school that day, but it is not a school day, and it’s not mandatory?’ That’s how I came up with the idea for the flex day.”

After Zamora described how the flex days operated, West knew that was the solution he needed to implement a four-day week in Dime Box ISD. “When he explained how the flex days work, I realized that would solve the issue of the childcare,” West says. Still, West was concerned about taking Friday off. “People always take [off] Friday, but the problem with that is there is a lot of school business that takes place on Friday. You have basketball games, you have football games, you have all these events that are taking place on Friday. If you are here in the evening for those events, does anybody really get the day off?”

For that reason, and not a hatred of Mondays, West proposed making Monday the flex day for Dime Box ISD.

Initial Apprehension

Although the initial reaction by the faculty, staff, and community was one of shock and apprehension, once West and district officials explained how the flex day would work, the plan was approved by the school board. Beginning in fall 2019, Dime Box ISD officially moved to a four-day week. Still, before the first day there were a lot of unknowns about the plan, and West was nervous.

“That was probably my longest drive to work,” West remembers.

Students would have the option to go to campus, and nobody knew how many students would show up. If all of the district’s 170 students attended school on the flex day, the plan might not work. Teachers, including first grade teacher Kaylie Clare-Sherman, shared that apprehension.

“My initial reaction was, ‘How is this going to work?’” Clare-Sherman says. “I was so confused and had so many thoughts running through my head. I really thought Mondays would just be a normal day of the week. I felt like I knew the parents, and I knew they would send their kids on Mondays. I knew that no matter what, every single kid in my classroom would be here, and I would still be teaching five days a week.”

In actuality, only about 35% of the students showed up that first day. Since then, the numbers have settled a little lower at a consistent 25% to 30% of students. Predictably, the majority of those students are from the younger grades, with the older middle and high school students rarely attending on flex days. Those who attend school are grouped together for the day with students a grade above or below. Teachers are allowed to choose eight of the flex days to take off. The remaining days, they oversee the smaller number of students. The structure of the day also allowed teachers working the flex days more time for planning.

Adapting to the Schedule

Many of the educators also wondered how the change would affect the rest of the week.

“I was concerned about whether or not all of our teachers would be able to teach the full curriculum with fewer days available,” says Candi Becker, special education coordinator and English II teacher. “Teachers definitely had to rethink their lesson plans a little, but they mostly had to focus on what the most important things are that we wanted our students to learn.”

For some teachers, the way they had taught in the past was no longer possible.

“In the lower grades, a lot of the curriculum that is provided is structured for five days a week,” Clare-Sherman adds. “Everything is laid out Monday through Friday, with Monday being the beginning of the week to introduce the content and then Friday testing over the content that was learned throughout the week. All in all, this was something that I couldn’t stop thinking about, fitting the majority of my curriculum into a four-day school week.”

By the end of the fall semester, however, educators and students had both adjusted to the abbreviated weeks. According to West, there has been no perceptible drop or decline in test scores or academics. Teachers have noticed how the students have adjusted their approach to learning as well.

“The students realized early on that school time is business time,” Becker says. “You have to get down to business while you’re here, or you will get behind more so now than before. ‘Catch-up’ days don’t really happen now because those days are reserved for Mondays, and most of the secondary-level students would much rather do their work when it’s assigned than to have to come in on a Monday.”

West says this schedule has produced several positives he could not have imagined when he first proposed it. Students who need extra help no longer have to stay after school because they can receive tutoring on the flex days. It also allows the district to take all Monday holidays, such as Presidents Day and Labor Day. Families have used the flex day to travel more. Most of all, students and educators say Sunday evenings are a lot less stressful.

“The students seem more relaxed,” Becker says. “If they have tournaments or weekends away from home, they still have Mondays to relax and have down time. Also, I haven’t had to take any work home with me yet this year. It’s nice getting to go home and spend time with my husband and kids without having to squeeze in grading or lesson plans.”

West considers the schedule change a success and intends to continue operating on a four-day week next year as well, with perhaps some minor changes to the length of the day. “Overall, the students are enjoying it,” West says. “They have settled in. They are looking to what’s next.”

Ultimately, how the students feel is what matters most to the educators in Dime Box ISD.

“I think the biggest positive that has come from this is that the ‘Monday blues’ really are not there come Tuesday, the first day of the school week,” Clare-Sherman adds. “My students come in and are ready to learn.”

Olfen ISD Superintendent Gabriel Zamora frequently speaks with school district officials to answer questions about the four-day week. He invites anyone with questions about the schedule to visit or to reach out to him via email at

Author: Michael Spurlin