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Gonzales provides insight into possible school calendar shift from 180 days to 1,080 hours

When creating a school calendar, school districts in Iowa must choose between scheduling 180 days or 1,080 hours.

According to a report from Iowa Department of Education, the bill House File 215, which was passed in 2013, struck down the five and a-half minimum hours rule for districts to have a full day of school using 180-day calendar. The reason is 1,080 hours divided by 180 days is a six-hour day.

At Clarke Community School District, teachers are on contract for 180 calendar days. However, in the future, inclement weather, early dismissals and late starts could create havoc for a district trying to have a six-hour day on a 180-day calendar.

“We would only have a five and a-half hour day, which in the past, that’s what Iowa Code says. … So now, with a Legislative change to 1,080 hours, they used six hours,” said Clarke Superintendent Benita Gonzales. “So, that was really forcing everybody to re-examine what it was they were going to do because any of our early dismissals or late arrivals would not have allowed us to count any of those as days.”

Committee support

On Feb. 10, Clarke Community School Board held a public hearing on the 2014-15 school calendar having 1,080 hours or 180 days.

Gonzales said the school’s calendar committee has made a decision to support the move to 1,080 hours.

One reason for this is to avoid problems with teacher’s contracts and school possibly being dismissed at noon for a snow day without meeting the six-hour rule. This would mean adding a day on at the end of the year.

“We can’t call the teachers back without breaking our bank for every single time one of those days gets called,” Gonzales said.

What the report says

According to the department of education’s report, if a district or school chooses 1,080 hours of instruction, lunch is excluded; however, passing time or parent-teacher conferences may be included. Both models for the 1,080 hours and 180 days will be required to have the same amount of instructional time.

The education report states, “For districts, accredited nonpublic schools and independently accredited schools using the 1,080 hours of instruction, there is no minimum or maximum day length. Day length is a local district, accredited nonpublic school, or independently accredited school decision and may vary. It does average six hours a day, but the only number we are interested in is the annual sum of hours that your districts, accredited nonpublic schools, and independently accredited schools has documented to meet 1,080 hours.”

Decision time

For the 2014-15 school year, the deadline to submit the school district’s decision on 1,080 hours or 180 days is March 1.

The decision on 1,080 hours will be an agenda item at the next Clarke School Board meeting Monday.

Gonzales said people will hardly notice any major changes if the school board approves moving from 180 days to 1,080 hours.

“If we have a situation where we have an early dismissal or a late arrival, like what’s happened this year, we’re going to be able to operate just as we always have,” she said. “So, it’s really, we’re not going to see any big changes, it’s just the fact we’re going to have to look at our calendar differently and make sure we have enough hours in the days we’re providing.”

Gonzales said she believes there is a trend of many schools moving toward 1,080 hours for a school calendar.

“It got into a contractual and fiscal type of question that most school districts examined and had to take a look at and respond to,” she said. “So, I think a lot of people shifted to that.”

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