Months of time, work and consideration on the Waukee schools' district calendar could go to waste if a piece of legislation in the Iowa Senate wins approval.
The bill, approved this week in the Iowa House, restricts Iowa schools from starting their year before the fourth Monday in August. It also eliminates a waiver process that has, until now, allowed most of the state's school districts to circumvent the required state start date.
The abrupt changes are unwelcome news in the Waukee school district, says Jerry Ripperger, president of the Waukee school board.
"It’s an emotional topic," said Ripperger. "There are strong opinions on both sides of the issue. If the governor says 'no waivers,' we're going to have to scramble to make the changes to the calendar."
Waukee's 2012-13 District Calendar
On Feb. 27, the Waukee school board approved the final draft of a 2012-13 school calendar.
It wasn't exactly an easy process.
In the spring of 2011, the school board commissioned a Parent Calendar Advisory Committee made up of parents from the district who would be willing to lend their time and opinions to crafting the district's calendar.
Last December, parents in the district were asked to complete an online survey about what they'd like to see included (or taken out) of the district's current calendar.
The survey found that many parents preferred that students start the school year on a Wednesday; would be in favor of earlier start times in August and days off on Fridays during the school year; and did not believe students should have a fall break similar to spring break.
Those suggestions were passed on to the school board's Policy Committee and a suggested draft of the calendar was presented to the Waukee board for a vote on Feb. 13.
A final draft of the calendar was approved by the Waukee school board on Feb. 27 with a start date of Wednesday, Aug. 15 set for the 2012-13 school year.
While the bill has passed in the Iowa House, it has yet to be approved in the Iowa Senate. If it passes, it would go into effect for the 2013-14 school year.
If the bill fails to pass in the Iowa Senate, Gov. Terry Branstad has said he will ask the Department of Education to halt granting waivers to the districts that apply for them.
This could be a problem for Waukee, says Ripperger.
"At this point we can’t even get a waiver submitted yet," he said. "If we don’t get approval, we will have to re-do the calendar and make some really hard trade-offs. If that happens, I hope the governor will come to that meeting. It's going to mean broad ramifications to the whole system."
Ripperger said some of the options should the district have to alter the 2012-13 calendar would include eliminating spring break and/or extending the school year into June.