Some Schools Implement New Hour Requirements While Others Will Count Days

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As schools are gearing up for the new school year some districts have implemented changes to the way time in school is calculated.

Legislation approved by Ohio lawmakers became effective on July 1, requiring districts to switch from counting days in the classroom to counting hours of instruction.

Under the new requirement, students in grades 7-12 must have at least 1,001 hours of instruction, while students in kindergarten through grade six must have at least 910 hours. For half-day kindergarten, students must have 455 hours of instruction. Previously schools had been required to complete a set number of days (182).

While the change becomes effective for this school year, it will not take effect in all districts at this time as previous requirements for days had been written into collective bargaining agreements with the unions in each district.

At this point, districts in which the collective bargaining agreement became effective prior to the July 1 effective date of the law are not required to switch methods at this time, but must make sure the school calendar complies with at least the minimum number of hours as required. Any collective bargaining agreements signed after that time must comply with the new hours requirements.

It seems to be a mixed bag with the five school districts in Athens County.

“We are going to use the ‘hours’ version of the state calendar requirements,” said Federal Hocking Supt. George Wood via email. “We felt this would give us the most flexibility to design a calendar that met the interests of helping children learn.”

Nelsonville-York Local Schools will also be switching to the hours based system according to Supt. Mick McClelland, although those in the district will not see much change in the actual calendar.

Trimble Local and Athens City Schools will not be switching to hours for the upcoming school year, instead, sticking with the days requirement as in the past.

“Our negotiated agreement with the teaching staff was signed before the effective date of the legislation and so accordingly, we are still eligible to implement an original ‘days’-based calendar for the duration of that contract, which extends through the 2015-2016 school year,” said Trimble Supt. Kim Jones. “However, with permission of the Trimble Local Teachers Association and the governor’s office, we did study the option of converting to hours for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year, and the potential impact of such a change. In the end, however, we still had too many concerns to implement such a calendar at this time and so Trimble Local will be utilizing the traditional ‘days-based’ calendar this year.”

Athens City Schools will run a traditional calendar for the upcoming school year, handling calamity and make-up days as in the past said Supt. Carl Martin. The district will be looking into the conversion to hours for the following school years, taking this year to work out the details involved in it.

Alexander Local Schools will operate on the traditional number of days as required by the current contract, but will count hours instead of days according to Supt. Lindy Douglas. The district will incorporate additional professional development days into the school year, meaning the district’s students will actually be in classes for approximately two less days than in the past.

With the hours requirement, districts will no longer have calamity days, but will have the option to have extra hours built into the original schedule to offset any missed time.

“The calendar will be about the same but we will be counting hours instead of days. Hours missed over 74 will be made-up on Presidents Day, Spring Break and added to the end of the year. This is how it was when we counted days,” said McClelland.

At Federal Hocking, days will be made-up even if the district has not dropped below the minimum requirements.

“We have built them (make-up days) into the calendar so that we begin making up days as soon as we miss days,” said Wood noting the district has long weekends scheduled in February and May. “If we miss snow days prior to these weekends, we will immediately schedule make-up days during this time rather than waiting to see if we miss 5 calamity days as we have done in the past. That way we make up days as we lose them, during the school year, when students are more focused and before, rather than after, testing days.”

“Last year, when we missed so many days, we added days in late May. Of course, at this time of year all of the state-mandated testing is over and kids are focused on summer vacation. With our new schedule we will be able to make up days in mid-February and early May. What we are currently being told by the Ohio Department of Education, is that some of the testing will move to later in May and thus we can get in more school days prior to testing and when kids are more focused on school,” said Wood.