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Board of Education approves school calendar based on hours

(Radio Iowa) – The State Board of Education took the first step Thursday in allowing school districts to set their school calendars based on hours of instruction instead if the current requirement of a set number of days.

The move was overshadowed Thursday by the discussion of changing the school start date — but the Department of Education’s interim director, D.T. Magee, says it is important.

“That’s a significant and fundamental change for the State of Iowa,” Magee calls the move. He says the change can open up a lot more options for districts.

“One-hundred-80 school days were what school districts were required to have students in attendance. And so the move to 1,080 hours — and that was based on a 180-day school year at six hours of instructional time per day — will give districts some flexibility that they haven’t had previously,” Magee says.

The change could have its biggest impact for districts that have to make up days where school was canceled by snow. “So if a district has three or four snow days, they could add time onto their schedules towards the end of the year and finish when their calendar is set to finish,” Magee explains.

“It’s something that districts requested for flexibility as it relates to snow days and other calendar options that they weren’t able to consider with the hard and fast rule of 180 school days.” Under the new option for example, a district could hold classes for only four days a week by making the time in school on those days longer. Magee says schools would still be able to stick with the old option.

“They’ll submit a request to the department or state their intention of which method they want to go with — whether it’s 180 days or 1,080 hours,” Magee says. The change still has to go through a public hearing and be considered by a legislative review committee before it would go into place.

Magee says if everything moved ahead without any concerns, it could be ready to implement by the 2014-2015 school year.