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North College Hill Schools held class 4 days a week this year. Here's how it's going

North College Hill Superintendent Eugene Blalock
Zack Carreon
North College Hill Superintendent Eugene Blalock.

The 2023-2024 school year was a year of change for North College Hill City Schools. Citing teacher burnout and hiring difficulties, the district switched to a blended learning model and began holding classes four days a week.

The district's plan launched in the fall. It gave students Mondays off and allowed teachers to use the day to build lesson plans for the rest of the week. A year later, Superintendent Eugene Blalock is already calling it a success.

Until more data on student academic success becomes available, Blalock is measuring that success based on responses from educators and how much interest the district is getting in the job market.

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Blalock says the goal of the switch was to maximize the time spent in the classroom for teachers and students. In years prior, staff absenteeism was high and substitute teachers were in short supply, forcing teachers and administrative personnel to fill in, leaving little time to prepare lessons and even less time for teachers to regroup and recharge.

"They were getting stressed out and just burning out to be perfectly honest with you," Blalock told WVXU.

Now, Blalock says the climate of the school has changed dramatically. Staff attendance has improved and teachers claim students are coming to class more excited to learn.

"The teachers have said when the students come in Tuesday to Friday, they're more engaged than they would be on that Monday. And I don't know what that's about, we talk about, is it an extra day of rest or actually do the kids like coming to school? So, the day that they're off, they miss being in school," Blalock said.

That positive energy is helping bring more quality teachers to the district. At the start of this current school year, North College Hill had 12 non-certified teachers in its classrooms, but this summer, the district expects to fill all those positions with certified instructors.

The school system still has two weeks left in the academic year, so it's too early to tell how many teachers will stay in North College Hill, but based on what he's heard so far, the superintendent expects many teachers to stay.

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When it comes to recruiting, Blalock says the four-day week has plenty of educators interested in joining the district, which makes selling the job easier.

"Especially if they've been in the classroom a few years and I ask them, 'What would it be like to have a full day to plan?' and their eyes light up," he said.

The North College Hill Board of Education has already approved a four-day week for next school year. For Blalock, he wants to continue to see how the blended learning model can better work for students and staff.

He says the district plans to add more career training programs so students can spend their open Monday shadowing professionals and learning practical skills.

The superintendent is confident the four-day week will continue to move the district in a positive direction. How blended learning will hold up in the long run remains to be seen, but as long as the district puts teachers first, Blalock says things can only improve.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.