DES MOINES — Much like Mother Nature, the Iowa Legislature is unlikely to give schools a break on snow days.
Legislation to cap the amount of time schools must make up for bad weather at no more than five days or 30 instructional hours appears headed for the legislative version of a snowbank.
State law requires schools to hold class for a minimum of 1,080 hours or 180 days per school year. Republican leaders are reluctant to put exemptions into Iowa Code.
“You know, it’s about the kids,” House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said Wednesday. “Schools should keep in mind that what the kids need before they are dismissed should be accomplished. I don’t know that we can’t be a little flexible about the actual hours, but I think we have to make sure the school’s work is complete before sending the students off for the summer.”
A little flexibility is what Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, who sponsored House File 492, said she wants.
“These are unusual circumstances this year and it is pretty much statewide,” she said about the number of cancellations, late starts and early outs this winter.
She’s encouraged that the bill, which is modeled on Illinois law, has been assigned to a House Education subcommittee.
“At least we will have a conversation about it and maybe come up with a solution,” said Winckler, adding that she’s open to modifications.
Education Chairman Cecil Dolecheck, R-Mount Ayr, didn’t offer much encouragement. He isn’t sure the subcommittee will meet and he doesn’t anticipate talking up the legislation ahead of the March 8 deadline for bills to get committee approval.
He believes the time in school “is a critical part of a child’s experience and I do not want it to be decreased for convenience.”
Upmeyer can “fully appreciate that it’s really hard to keep kids’ attention beyond Memorial Day,” but believes schools will find their own solutions.