Dubuque schools looking at calendar changes - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque schools looking at calendar changes

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

A new state law will determine how long Iowa kids go to school each year.

Effective July 1, 2014, schools have the option to choose between a minimum of 180 days or 1,080 hours of instruction in a school year.

The Dubuque Community School District is still questioning exactly how that will impact the school year.

Currently, the Dubuque Community School District measures its school year by days, and it already meets or exceeds the required 180 every year. This change in the law, however, is prompting a possible change in calendar.

At Dubuque's Bryan Elementary School Tuesday afternoon, fourth graders in Mrs. Standorf's class were busy learning about the science of motion.

As a teacher and as a mother of a fifth grader, Tamara Standorf knows firsthand the importance of having a good grasp on the school calendar.

"It's really important because of plans being made for vacations and summer camps and swimming lessons and everything," Standorf said. "It is important that we know exactly when we're going to be finished, within a couple of days, anyway."

Effective next school year, districts in Iowa can choose between a school year system that uses a 180-day minimum or a 1,080-hour minimum. Only instructional hours count in that latter option, so recess and lunch are not included.

The catch, however, is that under the new law, days that start late or end early -- say, due to heat or winter weather -- count toward the hours minimum but don't count toward the day minimum; not even as a partial day.

Rick Colpitts is executive director of human resources for the district.

"So you could go to school for five hours that day, dismiss because of snow, which we've done a lot lately, and that day doesn't count, and you have to make the whole day up," Colpitts said, explaining the new law. "It kind of, whether it was intended or not, forces districts to look and say, 'Well, it makes more sense to us to count hours, because we're really probably already close to that or maybe exceeding that.'"

The Dubuque Community School District is currently coming up with two possible calendars for next year: one that accommodates the hourly minimum and the other, the daily minimum.

However, Colpitts said, district officials are hoping lawmakers will change the law and allow early-out- or late-start days to count as a full day of school.

Colpitts stressed district officials are not looking to extend the school year by weeks or the school day by hours. He said any changes would be small and the school year's start and end dates would be very similar to what they currently are, if changed at all.

The district holds an annual public hearing on the school calendar, but because of this law, the next one is especially important, Colpitts said.

It's set for Monday, Feb. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Forum, the district's headquarters, 2300 Chaney Road in Dubuque.

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