SCHOOL START: Changes Proposed To Start Date

Iowa schools are supposed to start classes in September, but most get around that by applying for a waiver to head back to classes early.

“I just can’t wait.  I want to learn some new things,” says Avery Swartz.

Kyra Stairs isn’t as eager.

“I want to start later ‘cuz like, I want to have more fun in the summer than have less fun,” she says.

The girls’ first day of 3rd grade in Waukee is August 14th.  Schools in Des Moines and West Des Moines don’t start until the following week.

“I’ve gotten used to it.  It does make summer go by a little fast, but it always seems like summer goes by fast,” says teacher Scott Brown.

“On one hand, it says schools should start in September.  On the other hand, it says that there’s a discretion whether that is exactly the date,” says Mike Cormack, policy liaison with the Iowa Department of Education.

Last year, 340 out of 348 districts received waivers.  They are required to show “significant negative impact” of a later start date.  But up until now, that impact hasn’t been defined.  The state Department of Education wants to set new guidelines for reviewing those requests.

“Every district will have the opportunity to choose their local start date. The further away they get from the September 1st date, they’ll just have to justify why they’re so soon,” says Cormack.

“I’d rather have them go ahead and get started so that they can be done by Memorial Day and finished and have their summer,” says Carlisle parent Lee Olsen.

“There’s positives and negatives of both of it,” says Brown.

Thursday’s vote is just to decide whether the state Board of Education should continue the discussion.  Changing the current start date law is 110-day process.   It includes public hearings and reviews by a legislative panel.  If that’s the direction the boards takes, any changes would be for the 2014-2015 school year.

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