In a communication to board members and superintendents last week, I provided the following information concerning attendance.
For school year 2009-10, current state law and budget bill language require that school districts provide the equivalent of 177 six-hour days and 1,062 hours of instruction. That total must include two more six-hour days in addition to the number of six-hour days that were fulfilled during the 2005-06 school year. School districts also must provide four professional development days and may designate four holidays, one opening day and one closing day.
Districts must meet the requirements for both the number of six-hour instructional days and the 1,062 instructional hours. Adding additional minutes to the school days remaining in the calendar to make up required instructional time will only be an option if used to provide the minimum of 1,062 hours or to increase a short day to a six-hour day. Adding additional minutes to multiple days is not an option for making up the equivalent of a full six-hour day missed due to weather conditions or flu.
Other calendar allowances include:
· Districts may change spring break days to instructional days.
· Districts may change scheduled shortened days into six-hour instructional days.
· Districts may use a total of five emergency hours for days shortened due to an emergency.
· Districts may hold professional development days on Saturday, at their discretion. Professional development day activities should occur with supporting documentation and evidence that activities can be substantiated.
· Districts may not have school on a regular election day or a primary election day. This year, May 18 is primary election day in Kentucky.
State regulation 702 KAR 7:140 (section 4) says that a school district can seek “forgiveness” of days missed. However, the district must have missed at least 20 days and must make up the first 20 days missed.
Although I’m relatively new to Kentucky, the issues surrounding school calendars – weather- or illness-related closings, makeup days, instructional time requirements and more -- are ones that I’ve dealt with in the past.
I strongly believe that children should get the instructional time that they are entitled to each year under state law. I also believe that school calendars should be designed with the best interests of children – not adults – in mind.
The balance between providing a safe and healthy school environment and ensuring that children receive the instructional time they deserve is sometimes difficult to maintain. But, with thoughtful calendar planning, the struggle to meet the mandates of state law related to time in school can be eased.
I have encouraged school districts to begin looking at school calendars now and using their experiences over the past few winters to make decisions for the future. Ask the hard questions – Is a fall break really necessary? Is spring break an untouchable time? Are the start and end dates for the school year set appropriately?
The vagaries of weather and the impact of flu and other illnesses are hard to predict. But, with careful planning, we can provide our students with consistent time in school and strong instructional practices.
I have been very clear and consistent in my message. I believe our children have a right to a minimum of 1,062 hours of instruction within 177 days. It is inconsistent on the one hand to cry “foul” when the legislators seek a two-day reduction in instruction and then to request a waiver from instructional time due to weather-related issues that could be addressed through improved calendar management. In this case, I will always err on the side of instruction for our children, and while makeup days may inconvenience adults, the instruction of our children is the foundation for all of my decisions.
Of course, the General Assembly could pass legislation that would make my position moot.