State Won't Allow Longer School Days Instead of Full Snow Days

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- All the cold weather and snow this winter has eastern Iowa schools trying to figure out how to make up snow days without going too far into summer vacation.

Some schools, including Cedar Rapids, were considering some alternatives scheduling make up classes in mid-June. But the Iowa Department of Education won't allow one alternative that was used in one recent snowy winter by some districts. That alternative was to add time, usually 15 or 30 minutes, to each school day rather than add full days in mid-June.

Cedar Rapids Community Schools closed five times for weather related reason so far this year. The school year was scheduled to end June 6th but will now go until Wednesday, June 11th with the addition of snow days. Two other districts besides Cedar Rapids had made the request to the state for a waiver to make school days longer the rest of the year.

Dubuque added a half hour to the school day in March of 2008 to make up some of the nine snow days that year.

But next year, district will have more flexibility that could allow schools to make school days longer if necessary.

John Speer, superintendent at College Community, said districts can keep the current 180 day standard which allows districts to count early dismissals or late starts as a full day. The new option is to calculate a school year in hours. The standard will be 1,080 hours of instruction. Speer said using the instructional hours standard will allow districts more flexibility.

"If you look at our calendar for next year, what administrators and parents see is identical. We still have (180) days on the calendar. The only reason we will certify it as 'hours' is to give us flexibility in the case of unusual circumstances," Speer said.

Speer believes a lot of districts may use the hours calculations as the official school year standard so can make up lost time with longer school days without getting a state waiver. But state school officials say once districts choose, they'll have to stick with that choice the entire school year.
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