Greene County school district anticipates later school start date

~by Lora Koch, The Scranton Journal

The Greene County board of education will discuss at its Jan. 21 meeting a school calendar for 2015-16 that looks much different than in previous years.

The Iowa Department of Education (DOE) has alerted districts that it will no longer automatically grant the “early start” waivers needed to begin school before the week that includes Sept. 1.

The code requires that “school shall begin no sooner than a day during the calendar week in which the first day of September falls . . . if the first day falls on a Sunday, school may begin on a day during the calendar week which immediately precedes the first day of September.”

Schools have “worked around” this requirement for years by simply requesting a waiver to set a school start date best suited for their district. For Greene County, the school start date has typically been during the third week of August. For example, this past year the first day of school was Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Going forward, the DOE will only consider a school district’s request for a waiver of start date if the district has adequately demonstrated that starting on or after the earliest start date specified would have a significant negative educational impact.

Greene County school superintendent Tim Christensen will discuss this change at the Jan. 21 school board meeting, but anticipates that the district will not request a waiver of the Iowa Code start date requirement. “Their wording says that starting later must have a significant negative educational impact. I can’t come up with something, in good conscience, that would be a negative educational impact.

“I don’t agree with it, but we can follow the guideline,” said Christensen.

The proposed 2015-2016 Greene County School calendar shows the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 31 and the last day on Tuesday, June 7. Also under review this year, Greene County schools may have a week-long spring break, with dates to be determined. In past years, the district spring break was Good Friday and the Monday after Easter.

“We will have conversation about the week-long spring break and when to schedule it,” said Christensen. “The Spanish Club takes a week long trip and it would be nice to schedule it over spring break so they don’t need to miss school.”

One concern about the later start date is that cross county and football practices will still start at the same time as previous years, as will meets and games. “You could have two or three weeks of football and cross county without school started,” explained Christensen.

Some other school districts may have issues with a later start date due to the number of high school students taking college classes off campus. Christensen said this is not a real concern for Greene County High School. “Our students take many college courses, but 95 percent are taught on-site by our own teachers. So, we would start those courses when we start school.”

The school district hopes to release the 2015-2016 calendar soon so families can plan accordingly. With the high school sharing arrangement with Paton-Churdan, it’s anticipated P-C will propose very nearly the same school calendar as Greene County.

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