New law to give Missouri school districts flexibility in making up missed days

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO - For years, Missouri public schools were required to be in session for a minimum of 174 days and 1,044 hours each year, but a new law eliminates the required number of minimum days focusing solely on the number of hours instead.

Earlier this month, Governor Mike Parson signed a measure changing the rules and giving school districts the freedom and flexibility to make up the time missed. The new law goes into effect for the 2019-2020 school year.

Several years ago, legislation passed allowing districts the ability to implement a four-day school week. Paul Ziegler was superintendent of the Northwest School District when the legislation passed, and his district adopted this new option.

“We looked at eliminating some half days that we had previously used for some teacher development," Ziegler said. "They weren’t our best days, we realized that. So, we looked at trying to be creative within that.”

Ziegler currently serves as the Executive Director of Education Plus, a cooperative of 53 school districts providing networking, advocacy, cooperative purchasing, and professional development. According to Ziegler, most local school districts build in extra time to the school calendar to account for days canceled due to weather.

According to Dr. Eric Knost, superintendent of the Rockwood School District, his district typically schedules 180 days in the school calendar, six more than what was required.

“In a district like ours, we won’t be handling it any different," he said. "If we have snow days, we’re going to calculate out as we get close to the end of the year."

For other school districts with fewer school days on the calendar, a missed day in the winter could mean a day added at the end of the school year. Now, schools will have the option of spreading that time out. For example, they could add time to already scheduled school days over several weeks.

Ziegler said having this kind of flexibility in scheduling saved Northwest School District money on services like transportation.

"For us at Northwest it was about $25,000 a day to transport, so for us to be able to avoid that day, that’s real dollars that we can do better things for kids with.”