Iowa Considers Measuring School Year in Hours

by Katie Wiedemann, Reporter

DUBUQUE, Iowa - Some state lawmakers want to change the way Iowa district's measure the school year. They want school districts to keep track of hours in the classroom instead of the total number of school days. Right now, the state requires districts to have 180 school days. But the Iowa House has approved a bill that would change the minimum school year to 1080 classroom hours instead.
The House passed it overwhelmingly, 84 to 16. But not everyone is convinced this would be a good move.

After a snowy winter in 2008 Dubuque Schools administrators added 30 minutes to the end of each school day for the last couple months of the year. It wasn't well received then and some teachers in the district have the same concerns this time around.

As the final minutes of a school day tick by. Students are focused on the weekend.

Hempstead High School Teacher Joel Miller said, "as the day drug on, the amount of learning went down. "

Miller remembers the long spring days of 2008.

"The extra time was an overload for students, teachers everyone involved, " said Miller.

Dubuque Schools Superintendent Stan Rheingans isn't a fan of adding minutes to the end of school days. But he says late arrivals and early dismissals do cut into critical classroom time. If the law changes, he says he'd look for other ways to make up the hours.

Rheingans said, "we could just add those two hours together and add days to the end of the school year. "

He says every potential solution raises questions.

"How do we ensure that those students are making up the class time from the class that they missed?," said Rheingans.

Without any clear answers, Miller says it's best to just leave well enough alone.

Miller said, "if school is delayed, the time that we have the delay, we plan lessons accordingly to try change things and divide the content. "

The state task force that recommended this change says measuring school years in hours instead of days would give students more time in the classroom and make that time more effective. It also said it would allow districts flexibility to find the school calendar that works for them.
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