Superintendents weigh in
SIKESTON -- A new House bill passed earlier this week would relieve some schools of makeup days for bad weather and require them to hold public hearings if they want to start classes before late-August.
While the bill wouldn't be a huge change for local school districts, the issue is something superintendents feel should be decided locally.
"The first thought I would have is it's eroding local control. That's one of the responsibilities that's been traditionally left to the local school board," said Charleston Superintendent Kevin Miller.
The bill, initially sponsored by Sen. Jack Goodman, whose district includes the tourist destination of Branson, would prohibit schools from starting 10 days before Labor Day unless the district first holds a public meeting. School boards would have to vote every year to approve the earlier start date.
Sikeston R-6 Superintendent Steve Borgsmiller agreed with Miller, saying he believes establishing a school calendar is the responsibility of the local school board. He said Sikeston is already complying with what is proposed.
"Our board of education works in cooperation with a local teachers' group that develops a calendar and votes on that calendar which is recommended (to the board) by Community Teachers Association every year," Borgsmiller said.
Borgsmiller said the school calendar is discussed during the regular school board meeting so it's already a public meeting.
Both Miller and New Madrid County R-1 Superintendent Bill Nance also said their districts also have calendar committees, and the district currently approves a calendar annually in an open session.
"We're doing what the law would require," Nance said.
The measure also allows schools to decide not to make up more days missed because of bad weather. Under current law, schools that exceed their scheduled snow days must add up to an additional eight days to make up for missed classes. After that, schools need to make up for only half the lost time.
The legislation would drop that requirement to making up six lost days and half the lost time above six days. But days lost because of heat would not be counted toward bad-weather days and would have to be made up.
"We've been fortunate these past few winters not to have many snow days. The law would allow for a little more flexibility to school districts that have a lot of make up days," Nance said.
The House and Senate have already passed separate measures that would permit school districts to skip classes canceled because of a January ice storm.
Currently House and Senate negotiators are trying to agree on a final version.
Although Miller, Borgsmiller and Nance said the bill wouldn't have much effect on their districts, the administrators would like to see more local issues like this one staying local.
"The state tells us what we're supposed to do, and I think that's why we have a local school board -- because they have the best interest of those in their district," Borgsmiller said.
He said: "You keep centralizing those things at the state level, and eventually what good is a school board?"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.