As thousands of students continue to head back to school, some Arizona districts are going into the new year with a brand-new schedule: only learning for four days a week.

Both the Cartwright Elementary School District in Phoenix as well as the Liberty Elementary School District in the West Valley will start the new schedule this school year.

However, the Casa Grande Elementary School District started just last year and has learned some things.

The districts board approved the move to the four-day schedule in March of 2022, with the district implementing the new schedule just months later for the 2022-23 school year, Superintendent Dr. Adam Leckie said.

It was an adjustment, diving headfirst into the new schedule.

Last year was really a lot of responding to the organization of a school district calendar, making sure that we supported our families through that transition and thinking about how we could do a better job supporting our staff, given the four-day week, Leckie said.

Leckie said they had to move from 180 school days and compress it into 154 days. School districts are required to hit a number of minutes of instruction time for certain grade levels, Leckie said.

You have to plan out your instruction and your curriculum really intentionally because you just dont have as many days in the year, he added.

Leckie said there is about a two-and-a-half-hour difference in instruction time on the new schedule. The days are a bit longer, however, the district eliminated its half-day on Wednesdays.

So far on the schedule, Leckie said its still a bit too soon to be able to see the impacts on students academics, however, they did see their students academic performance maintained or grew slightly.

Were really going to start looking this year and next year about how that impact is playing over time, he added.

Shortening the school week can make it difficult for parents who work a full, regular week. Leckie said the district is working with the local Boys and Girls Club as well as another organization to help fill that gap on Fridays.

One of the biggest reasons for moving to this new schedule is to help retain and recruit new teachers. In the districts second year on the four-day schedule, Leckie said they plan to try and promote it as well as help staff and students moving forward.

It certainly is an incentive for Emily Hoffman, a first-grade teacher at Saguaro Elementary. Shes going on her 11th year with the district. With the new schedule she said its helped her personal life and helped her mentally.

I do think that its an incentive. I have actually considered leaving the district in the past to go to a different district that had a four-day workweek. Thankfully, I got to stay here at Saguaro and enjoy the four-day workweek with my team. I didnt have to go anywhere, she said.

As a teacher moving to that schedule, her advice to others is to try and find a way to be organized.

Leckies advice to other districts moving to the new schedule, I would just really be responsive to the needs of their district and their community and involve as many of those community stakeholders as possible to make that decision, he said. Its not an easy decision and there are a lot of legitimate concerns when we talk about not bringing kids in for five school days.