Bill may require school to start after Labor Day

PLYMOUTH — Indiana public schools could be updating calendars for the 2013-14 school year if a bill introduced into the Indiana State Senate Jan. 5 continues to be met with approval.
Senate Bill 0171, concerning restricting start and end dates for school calendars, was introduced on first reading Jan. 5, 2011 and was then referred to the Committee on Education and Career Development.
Originally authoring the bill were Dennis Kruse, District 16; Mike Delph, District 29, and Scott Schneider, District 30.
On Jan. 13, Frank Mrvan, District 1, signed on as co-author.
On Jan. 19, the bill was amended and passed out of committee by a vote of 6-3.
The bill now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.
The original bill read as follows: “School start date and calendar. Prohibits public schools and accredited nonpublic schools from beginning student instructional days for the school year before the Tuesday after the first Monday in September (Labor Day) and from ending after June 10 of the following year, beginning with the 2013-14 school year. Provides that a governing body may establish a beginning date before Labor Day or an end date for a school year that is later than June 10 for year-round schools, schools with balanced calendars, and schools that coordinate calendars with a postsecondary educational institution following public hearings and a majority vote of the governing body.”
However, the amended version would allow for communities to extend the school year beyond the June 10 date.
The revised language includes the following: “A governing body may end a school year after June 10 at a school to which this subsection applies if (1) the governing body gives notice and holds at least two public hearings at which public testimony must be allowed on the issue; and (2) at a third public hearing, a majority of the members of the governing body vote to establish an ending date for the school year that is after June 10.”
The Indiana Department of Education’s (DOE) mandatory number of 180 days of school would still be in force.
“With schools still scheduling mid-August start dates, Hoosier families are deprived of valuable time — time that could be spent learning experientially and making lifelong memories together,” Delph said. “Today’s vote was a vital step in the process of giving families their summers back.”
“In the past, early August school start dates were reportedly needed to provide more time for teachers to prepare students for ISTEP-Plus testing in the fall,” Kruse said. “But since the test is now administered in the spring, ISTEP preparation is no longer a valid reason for schools to start so early. I believe it’s time parents, educators and lawmakers have a meaningful discussion about what’s best for Hoosier students when setting academic calendars.”
Schneider also believes the change is needed. “By making this slight adjustment to our school calendars, Indiana families could have more flexibility in scheduling summer family activities,” Schneider said. “Also, teachers could have more time for professional development and Indiana could see a growth in its tourism industry by extending the summer season.”
Daniel Tyree, superintendent of Plymouth Schools said, “It doesn’t matter to me, but I think parents should know about this bill.” He indicated that he would be sending an email to parents in the Plymouth system on the matter. Tyree said, “I have prepared a calendar that basically has no Fall Break, one week at Christmas, and no Spring Break. If that’s what people want, that’s fine with me, but they need to be aware. Since we have a lot of agri-business locally, it could be difficult for families to take vacations. It would deter the availability of vacations throughout the year.”
At the January Triton School board meeting, Superintendent Carl Hilling said the school would be discussing the proposed changes in the discussion groups within the corporation.
Similar legislation was introduced in 2010 by Bremen resident and State Senator Ryan Mishler, one of the co-authors of Senate Bill 105. In a press release issued shortly after the bill passed the Senate in 2010, Mishler said, “This bill still maintains Indiana’s 180-day requirement of instructional days and provides local school districts with flexibility in deciding a school end date in June.”
Mishler contended that the flexibility would better suit the needs of parents, students and staff that plan vacations.
Thirteen states now have laws regarding school start dates, including several that require districts to start after Labor Day.