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First day of Solon school up for grabs

School board to hold hearing Jan. 14 to take input on start date

SOLON– A calendar committee will present a recommendation to the Solon Community School District (SCSD) board of directors on Jan. 14 about starting the 2013-2014 school year in August. Iowa Code requires schools to get a waiver if their first day of classes comes before Sept. 1.
The SCSD school board will host a public hearing in conjunction with the calendar committee report in order to accept public comment on the possibility of starting school earlier than Sept. 1. The public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the central office conference room, 301 S. Iowa St., Solon.
In 2012, only eight school districts in the state began in September but no Iowa school started earlier than Aug. 14. Of Iowa’s 348 school districts, almost 98 received waivers under the Iowa Code, and opted out of the Sept. 1 start.
Last fall, a state instructional time task force submitted two opinions to the governor regarding start dates for Iowa schools.
The majority view recommended that Iowa school districts retain control of start dates. The current state law requires that schools obtain a waiver if the first day of school is earlier than Sept. 1. Supporters of the view argued that ending the first half of the school year after winter break affects student achievement and asked that districts retain local control to meet their needs.
The minority view voiced concern for businesses that count on revenues from recreation and tourism. They say early start dates cost Iowa businesses and deplete a cheap work force made up of high school students. The task force minority opinion also noted there was no research to indicate that student achievement is affected by a Sept. 1 start date. They called for an end to waivers for school districts.
The 18-member task force consisted of current and retired teachers and administrators and members of the business community and was also charged with studying the length of the school day and school year. They recommended that state schools meet an annual hourly requirement (a minimum of 1,080 hours) instead of the current 180-day calendar.
The issue will be picked up by the governor’s office and the state legislature in 2013. Last year, the Iowa house voted to make the fourth Monday in August the start date. The bill was not considered in the Iowa senate.