By Ron Marasco
With the snow piling up, so are snow days at some Iowa public schools. But that could change starting in 2014. Instead we may be looking at snow hours.
K-12 schools must schedule 180 days of instructional time at 5.5 hours a day. That's 990 hours during the school year. The legislature may scrap the days requirement and strictly look at hours.
"The flexibility of hours is a metric that we can better measure and manage than the 180 days," said Tom Downs, Executive Director of the Iowa Association of School Boards.
The legislature may implement a 1,080 hour school year instead. That gives local school boards scheduling options.
"We do fully support it," said Downs. "I would caution that there are many issues right now in front of the legislature on school reform. But we value this one because again it supports greater flexibility on the local level."
"I think it's too early to tell right now whether or not this would actually change anything, and it probably would not for us immediately," said Des Moines Public Schools spokesman Phil Roeder. "But it'll at least give us the flexibility down the road."
Some cash-strapped school districts could implement four-day school weeks. Others could lengthen the school year and shorten the days.
"Students in poverty over the summer, they lose a lot of what they did learn that past school year because of the long summer break," said Andrew Rasmussen, President of the Des Moines Education Association. "So we wouldn't necessarily be against experimenting with something like that."
But everyone agrees, it's not about quantity.
"The quality of instructional time is something we need to keep in mind too, no matter how many extra hours the students have," said Rasmussen.
Everyone I talked to expects the law to pass this session. If it does, they say look for it to begin the 2014-2015 school year.