This winter has been harsh; we all agree that spring cannot come soon enough. Just two years ago, the winter of 2007-08 presented unique challenges because the worst of the weather conditions occurred late in the season, leaving schools and school districts with very few options for making up missed days. Thus, in March of 2008, this agency permitted schools and school districts to prospectively lengthen the school day to make up for days missed because of inclement weather. That flexibility was limited to the unique circumstances of that year. Many school administrators have asked the DE to permit lengthening of the school day once again this year. Other school administrators have expressed the view that adding time to the end of remaining school days is not a sound educational practice.
To honor the fact that Iowa is a local control state, and in recognition that we know not what the remainder of the winter season will yet bring, the DE is issuing the following updated snow day guidance.
As instructional leaders, the first responsibility of school officials is to provide quality learning time for students. This entails providing full days of instruction to students and only adding instructional time to remaining school days as a last resort. It is the policy of this state that 180 instructional days is the MINIMUM required for optimal learning. Our students are in a global competition for their future economic survival.
A school or school district may add instructional time to remaining school days if ALL of the following occur:
1. The local school board makes a finding that to add days onto the end of the school’s calendar will substantially interfere with summer educational opportunities for students or staff. In addition, the local school board makes a finding that the missed days cannot be effectively replaced by school being held on weekend days, by reducing the number of scheduled vacation days for the remainder of the school year, or by adding on to the end of the year.
2. The local school board makes a finding that specifies how staff will provide a quality learning environment for students by adding instructional time to remaining school days. To this end, the department requires schools to add no less than 30 minutes to each day if pursuing this option.
3. Sports-related closures must be made up as whole days. (See item regarding these closures in Legal Lessons on page 10.) This revised guidance applies only to weather-related closures.
This is to be done prospectively only. A school or school district may not go back and add up time exceeding 5.5 hours from each day already passed to achieve the equivalent of 180 days. Nor may a school or school district merely add up the time exceeding 5.5 hours from each day yet to come to get in some make-up time. [Example: Classes are conducted from 8:10 - 3:10 with 30 minute lunch, so there are 6.5 instructional hours. The 8:10 - 3:10 has been the schedule all year. The hour over 5.5 hours does not "count" as make-up time.] What IS allowable is to extend classtime to meet from 7:45 - 3:15 with 30 minute lunch. Now the school or school district has an extra 30 minutes per day, 11 days = one make-up day.
Finally, schools and school districts are reminded when developing their calendars for next year (and subsequent years) to consider Iowa’s climate. It is reasonable to build in some days that can be used as make-up days. If doing so, for the benefit of staff, students, and students’ families, please state so upfront that certain identified days WILL be used by the school as make-up days if needed.