Late Start Date Could Mean Scheduling Nightmare for Districts

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Nearly every school district in Iowa applied for and was granted an early start waiver for the 2014-2015 school year allowing them to begin classes before the first week of September.

Citing concern from parents and a prompt from the governor’s office, the department plans to enforce stricter guidelines, making it more difficult for districts to get a waiver next school year.

With stricter guidelines in place, many districts will be forced to restructure their calendars.

Iowa’s biggest district, Des Moines Public Schools won’t be as affected as many of the suburban districts by the rules in 2015-2016 because the district plans to start classes on August 26th after the Iowa State Fair.

Just east in Colfax-Mingo, district leaders count on that waiver for a number of reasons.

"It's beneficial to us because like most districts, it allows us to finish that first semester before winter break. The waiver allows kids to take their semester tests, have a break, and not have to worry about getting back and getting ready for semester tests,” said Marty Lucas, superintendent of the Colfax-Mingo Community School District.

Colfax-Mingo is currently set to start classes next school year on August 13th, two weeks ahead of what the rules allow.

If the school can’t qualify for a waiver, it would be forced to spend its first two weeks in January preparing students for tests.

Lucas says it would be a setback that would force the district to consider a trimester system instead of its current semester system.

School districts can still apply for waivers, but getting them won't be easy.

"The evidence must be district level data that reflects an affect in academic achievement or the learning environment and they must indicate what that really means. To us, it's that there is substantial harm or damage to academic achievement,” said Staci Hupp, an official with the Iowa Department of Education.

Another concern at Colfax-Mingo is that many students take college level courses through DMACC where professors come into the school.

DMACC typically starts its courses earlier than the first week of September, causing a potential scheduling nightmare for the district.


  • Becky Shattuck

    I don’t understand why schools keep saying they need to finish the semester before winter break. Winter break is usually about 10 days off. Spring break is usually 9-10 days off, but no one seems to be concerned kids will forget what they’ve learned over spring break. Give it a rest! Colleges get out by winter break because they have shorter semesters (15-16 weeks). College kids also have longer breaks (often a month off or more!). Kids in high school have to be in school for more hours, so it makes sense the semester doesn’t end until January.

  • Victoria Eastburn

    What is so “strict” about these new guidelines for beginning school? They said NO WAIVERS and yet almost every district that applied received permission to begin classes BEFORE Labor Day! They should do away with Spring Break, start school after Labor Day like they used to. For crying out loud! This is ALL for the teachers and the NEA, has nothing to do with the good of the kids!

  • Jane Hammarlund

    Living in Pennsylvania and Minnesota, I didn’t see them having any problems starting school after Labor Day. We always had our testing in December and started up in January with new subjects. We didn’t get out until the beginning of June. I’m not sure I understand why there is a problem with the logistics when all these other states don’t start until after Labor Day. Why is it an issue in Iowa???

  • Reva Benefiel

    If students can’t remember material for 2 weeks over break, maybe the problem is not the calendar. And if a student is advanced enough to take a college class, shouldn’t they be advanced enough to handle getting to that class for a week or possibly two, if it starts before regular classes?


    Seriously !?!.. School needs to start AFTER the state fair, whether you participate in the fair, in any way, or not…

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