Changes coming to school calendars
School districts across the state are deciding whether to go to a calendar year requiring 1,080 hours of instructional time or to a 180-day calendar school year for the 2014-15 year.
This change came about after changes were made to House File 215 during the 2013 legislation process, which removed the previous minimum 5 ½ hours districts had to be in session to count for a school day, according to the Iowa Department of Education’s Web site. If districts choose the 180 days they must have six hours of instructional time, unlike before.
The Washington Community School District (WCSD) is planning to switch over to the hours for the 2014-15 school year, said WCSD superintendent Dr. Mike Jorgensen. This will give the district flexibility when planning early outs.
“For example, under the legislation for days, you have to put in six hours of instruction,” Jorgensen said, “which basically means that if you wanted to release early the day before a holiday you couldn’t do it; that’s kind of a common practice among schools. Where the hours, if you go with hours, it doesn’t matter if you release at 1:15 or 2 o’clock or whatever, it will still count as hours.”
The start date for next year’s school year is still going to be the third week of August and if there aren’t any snow days next year students will be out for summer break on May 21, 2015, Jorgensen said.
Professional development time will still be scheduled during the week.
“We’ve received good feedback from the teachers about this, so we’ll continue to keep doing this,” Jorgensen said.
Chris Armstrong, superintendent for the Highland Community School District, said the school board hasn’t made the final decision but is leaning toward switching to the 1,080 hours requirement.
“The hours will give us more flexibility,” he said. “Currently, our school days are more than what is required with the 180 days six-hour instructional time requirement, so we’ll have no problem with hitting the 1,080 hours.”
Armstrong understands why the change to the calendar was made.
“I applaud the system because we want to make sure the kids have as much instructional time as possible,” he said.
Mark Schneider, superintendent for the Mid-Prairie Community School District and Keota Community School District, said both districts would most likely switch to the instructional hours requirement.
“The state has left us no choice,” Schneider said. “So we’ll probably adopt the hours option.”
He didn’t like how the instructional time period was switched from 5 1/2 hours to the six-hour requirement for the 180 days option.
“If you do the days option and aren’t in session for six hours and have to release school early for inclement weather and were in session for five hours that day—the five hours wouldn’t count,” he said. “The state wanted to give the districts the option, but in the compromise things got struck [like the 5 1/2 hour requirement].”
Both the districts will build the calendars as they have previously, beginning the third week of August, after the Iowa State Fair, and ending in May, and anticipate they meet the requirement of the 1,080 hours, he said.
Districts have to notify the Iowa Board of Education about their decision by March 1.