School to count hours not days

Snow days prompt calendar revision

Students in the Pea Ridge School District have missed four scheduled school days due to inclement weather this year, but may not need to attend school for additional days.

School administrators are working on a transition from a traditional calendar to an alternative calendar that counts hours instead of days, thereby negating the need for additional days of school.

"What we're going to be working on transitioning from ... traditional calendar to an alternative calendar," Keith Martin, school superintendent, said. The proposal is planned for discussion at the Monday, Feb. 12, School Board meeting.

Martin said the state requires a minimum of 1,068 hours of instruction in a school year. He said the kindergarten through sixth-grade students have more hours of instruction than the seventh through 12th grades because of the transition times between periods.

"Even recess counts as instructional," Martin said of the lower grades.

"Our grades seven through 12 go 6.25 hours a day," Martin said. That six and a quarter hours times the 178 days of school, equates to 1,112.5 hours of instruction.

"If we approve the transition to an alternative calendar, I don't believe we'll have to extend our school year," Martin said. "I know we won't."

"We are all looking through the options and seeing what's best," he said. "We're working with PPC right now. We're going through our process of going through the waiver with the state and going through PPC."

"We want to make sure we're in compliance," Martin said. "There will be quite a bit of movement on that over the next week."

He said attending school on Saturdays will not be an option.

"We're trying to do the best we can; we're already looking at the calendar for next year," he said. "We are looking at the alternative calendar for that as well. My thing is, 1,068 is the minimum... just doing the minimum is not good enough."

He said altering the start time of the day by five minutes may help alleviate traffic congestion and he anticipates the School Board reviewing next year's calendar at the March meeting.

"The good thing about the hours, I believe it will still give us three more days if we had inclement weather or had to miss for a power outage or some other random act, without having to extend the students beyond their current end of school date."

Guidance from Jacob Oliva, secretary of the state Department of Education, sent Jan. 19, was intended to "provide clarity on how to make up the time and best address the instructional needs of students through in-person instruction."

According to Oliva, each district is required to provide in-person instruction a minimum of either 178 days or 1,068 hours. Districts are required to annually adopt a school calendar that incorporates either five make-up days or a minimum of 30 make-up hours. The memo states that scheduled professional development days could be used as student instructional days if needed.

The guideline states that for districts revising the existing calendar, approval must be sought from both the PPC and School Board and note the change in eSchool. A waiver is also required.