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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Personnal Agendas and start dates

By now I imagine you've heard that the Governor has directed the Department of Education to stop automatically approving requests for early start dates to our school calendars.  The essence of the directive from the DE Director Buck is this;
Moving forward, the director or director’s designee will only consider a school or school district’s request for a waiver of the school start date if the school or school district has adequately demonstrated that starting on or after the earliest start date specified would have a significant negative educational impact. Each request will be individually reviewed and approved or denied by the director or the director’s designee. 
This action by Director Buck was at the request of Governor Brandstad.   It as been pushed for several years now by business interests at the Iowa State Fair and in the tourism industry.  That lobbying group is interested in attendance at State Fair events,  losing teenage employees at school start and profits.   Only 2 districts in the state chose to open at the mandated start time last year.  Many start as early as the second week in August.  Each district has its own reasons for its calendar dates.  I've always assumed as educators we should have the right to run our school calendar as we see fit for the education process.  Apparently thats not as important so we will abide by the law if we need to, even though it may not be in the best interest of education.

Basically the 1983 law that this is based on sets the mandatory start date as "the Monday of the week in which September 1 falls."  For 2015-16 school year that would be August 31.  I'll be talking about calendar proposals at the January board meetings.  My original plans was to propose calendars with a start date of either Monday Aug. 24 or Wednesday Aug. 20.  I still plan on having those proposals on the table and requesting a waiver if necessary, but will also have the same proposals moved back a week to fit the mandated start date.   If we start on August 31 we will not be done before Memorial day, quite likely we will be in school until Friday June 3.

As always any calendar proposal is subject to a public hearing before a waiver is sought.  In past years we have had very few people comment on our calendars.  I will be including an innovative calendar at the meeting that is designed to provide for more teacher collaboration and student intervention time, but it also lengthens the year by approximately one week.  If you are interested in calendar development for the district you are encouraged to attend this meeting.  A decision on the final calendar won't be made at this meeting, but board and community feedback is expected.

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