Florida county schools adding four-day weekend 'mini-breaks' to improve attendance

A Florida school board is "trying something new" by adding four-day weekends to the school calendar to combat absenteeism.

Pasco County School board members voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve three of these "mini-breaks" in October, February and April for the 2024-2025 school year. Board members hope students will take time off during scheduled breaks rather than on school days.

"We are hoping that by placing those four-day weekends strategically, we can encourage our students and families to take their trips or vacations on those long weekends instead of taking off instructional days," assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley explained. "And so, we're going to try and market that to our families this year. And here are some mini-breaks throughout the year, so that if you want to take some time off, let's do it then and not miss school during scheduled school."

Fox News Digital reached out to the Pasco County School District for a comment.

Absence rates in the district are currently at 5% on average, with some students missing at least 10% of school days. In September, Pasco County introduced an Absentee Awareness Month to help encourage parents to prioritize attendance, noting "a 10% or higher absentee rate can steer a child towards future crime and unemployment."

In addition, the district will eliminate four half-days and replace them with a training day for teachers. The board is also leaving the schedule open for potential hurricane makeup days.

The primary reason for student absenteeism, board members suggested, is parents pulling their kids out for family vacations. The months with "mini-breaks" were primarily chosen to coincide with times many families tend to take their children out of school.

"It is different, but we're going to try something new, right?" board chairman Megan Harding said.

Despite adding four-day weekends, the school board insisted that the calendar actually provides more instructional minutes than the current year.

A report from Attendance Works, a non-profit that addresses attendance decline in the U.S., found that 66% of enrolled students attended a school with high or extreme levels of chronic absence in 2021-2022, meaning "at least one of five students in their school was missing almost four weeks throughout the school year."

The data also showed that nearly 14.7 million students were chronically absent in the 2021-22 school year, an enormous increase of 6.5 million more students missing 10% or more of regular school sessions than the school year prior to the pandemic.

Fox News' Joshua Nelson contributed to this report.

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