The Senate Education Committee heard 11 bills and 20 testifiers — concerning school calendars and schedules — during Wednesday’s two-hour meeting.
The school-start date bills discussed during the hearing that ranged from:
- Allowing schools to start before Labor Day.
- Allowing schools to start before Labor Day — but not holding school on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday prior to Labor Day.
- Allowing schools to start before Labor Day for only the 2015-16 school year.
The other school calendar bills (SF88 and SF162, sponsored by Sen. Lyle Koenen) heard by the committee dealt with allowing local school boards to establish and operate a flexible learning year programs.
The committee heard from superintendents, administrators, teachers, parents and students from five school districts in support of continuing the flexible school year. These testifiers touted many benefits of their four-day school weeks, including that this schedule:
- Provides more opportunities for students, including working and vocational training such as job shadow and enrichment activities (such as Targeted Services and test preparation).
- Increases student and staff attendance as doctors and dentist appointments are scheduled without loss of learning.
- Allows students have more teacher-contact time as teacher development is conducted during the fifth day.
- Students are able to take behind-the-wheel classes and participate in extracurricular activities and competitions on the fifth day — allowing students to remain in the classroom during school days.
- Permits additional study time for students taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and other college-level coursework.
- Alleviates some travel time for those who spend two hours or more a day on a school bus.
- Enhances staff development and provides time for class planning and alignment.
- Provides more time with family.
Minnesota Department of Education officials testified that Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius has not ever said she would not continue to give permission to school districts to continue their four-day week school schedules.
MSBA’s Snezhana Bessonov also testified, stating: “MSBA believes that local communities and locally elected school board members are the right people to establish and operate a flexible learning year program that best fits their community’s needs in relation to improving students achievement, closing the achievement gap, and providing opportunities for teacher development.”
All the bills that were heard Wednesday were laid over for future discussion.