As the countdown for the beginning of school is now down to single digits school personnel as well as the students will be starting their second year of a school day and year being measured in hours and minutes instead of days.
There was the day when Texas students were used to marking 100 days of school left as a sign they are on the downward slope to summer. Now it might be more technically correct celebrating 42,000 minutes until summer vacation.
All of this came about in 2015 when the 84th Legislature passed House Bill 2610 that changed a school year from 180 days to at least 75,600 minutes, with one day defined as 420 minutes.
The theory behind the change from days to minutes was to give districts more flexibility for making up missed instructional days. When a school misses a day because of weather they can just add minutes to a day to make up for that missed day instead of adding days, possibly at the end of the school year. So, by changing instructional time from days to minutes, a school can add minutes to current school days instead of adding additional days to the school calendar.
Typically, school districts include two makeup days for inclement weather into their calendar. When those days are exhausted, or if bad weather comes after the days have passed, districts look at either extending the school year, taking away other student holidays or requesting a waiver from the state. In previous years, some parents have complained when students had to go to school on Good Friday or Memorial Day.
Another problem concerning adding days at the end of the year can sometimes create challenges with the graduation schedule. This could add to many implications such as pay for hourly employees, child care, adjusting bell schedules for impacted programs across the district and adjusting transportation schedules.
The new House Bill counts recesses and other intermissions, such as lunch or breakfast, as instructional time. Districts are required to keep local records to prove that start and end times meet the minimum 75,600 minutes.
Denver City ISD adhered to the new law last year and will continue again this year. Each campus will actually have more than 420 minutes each day. Dodson is scheduled for 450-minute days and 76,140 minutes for the year, Kelley Elementary school day is 455 minutes and 76,980-minute school year, the junior high is set for 457 minutes per day and a 77,316-school year, and the high school will have 463-minute days and a 78,324-minute school year.
“The numbers are different for each campus due to their different start times at the beginning of the school day and their different release times at the end of the day,” Superintendent Gary Davis said. “We stagger those times to allow for bus travel from campus to campus and for parents who have multiple students at different campuses.”
Officials note that most of the schools already exceed the minimum minute requirement so the change from days to minutes should not and was not a major issue.
Although the law was intended to give school districts flexibility when there are emergencies, it could also allow schools to lengthen all school days and shorten the number of days needed to meet state standards. That would all be legal, as long as the school year doesn’t end before a state mandate of May 15th. The last day of this upcoming school year for Denver City will be May 25, 2018.
But, one of the major headaches could be how attendance is recorded and reported for funding. Schools typically get funding based on daily attendance, more commonly known as ADA (Average Daily Attendance).
The changes for many may still be as clear as mud, but the bottom line is when school kicks off on Monday, August 21, be ready to set your clocks and not your calendars. Ready or not, here we go.