In many ways Oliver Prince is your typical, happy fifth-grader. He enjoys recess, gym class and time at school on the computer.
But in one key way, he, along with the other 92 students at White Rock School in this tiny, bucolic town 50 miles east of Oklahoma City, are very different: They go to school only four days a week.
The single-school district is one of the 97 of Oklahoma’s 513 districts that have made the switch to the four-day week in recent years, citing struggles to cut their budgets and recruit high-quality teachers amid a nationwide teacher shortage and pay crisis that has had a particularly devastating effect on schools in the Sooner State.
“There are lots of challenges and problems that people haven’t tried to fix,” Bob Gragg, the superintendent, told NBC News. “But just because we’ve been doing it one way for a long time doesn’t mean we necessarily need to keep doing it that way.”
City school districts are taking notice. The four day-week is now beating a path to urban districts, which are facing their own crippling budget shortfalls and teacher retention challenges and are ready to try new solutions to solve growing problems.