DES MOINES, Iowa — Nearly every school district in Iowa applied for and was granted an early start waiver for the 2014-2015 school year allowing them to begin classes before the first week of September.
Citing concern from parents and a prompt from the governor’s office, the department plans to enforce stricter guidelines, making it more difficult for districts to get a waiver next school year.
With stricter guidelines in place, many districts will be forced to restructure their calendars.
Iowa’s biggest district, Des Moines Public Schools won’t be as affected as many of the suburban districts by the rules in 2015-2016 because the district plans to start classes on August 26th after the Iowa State Fair.
Just east in Colfax-Mingo, district leaders count on that waiver for a number of reasons.
“It’s beneficial to us because like most districts, it allows us to finish that first semester before winter break. The waiver allows kids to take their semester tests, have a break, and not have to worry about getting back and getting ready for semester tests,” said Marty Lucas, superintendent of the Colfax-Mingo Community School District.
Colfax-Mingo is currently set to start classes next school year on August 13th, two weeks ahead of what the rules allow.
If the school can’t qualify for a waiver, it would be forced to spend its first two weeks in January preparing students for tests.
Lucas says it would be a setback that would force the district to consider a trimester system instead of its current semester system.
School districts can still apply for waivers, but getting them won’t be easy.
“The evidence must be district level data that reflects an affect in academic achievement or the learning environment and they must indicate what that really means. To us, it’s that there is substantial harm or damage to academic achievement,” said Staci Hupp, an official with the Iowa Department of Education.
Another concern at Colfax-Mingo is that many students take college level courses through DMACC where professors come into the school.
DMACC typically starts its courses earlier than the first week of September, causing a potential scheduling nightmare for the district.