R-2 superintendent says new school-start date law may cause district to forfeit Memorial Day

Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

Gasconade R-2 Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner said July 22 that a governor-approved bill will push the school start date back by four days to accommodate Missouri tourism, but may lead to forfeiting Memorial Day for students and families.

“We wouldn’t start on a Wednesday then, we would have to start on a Monday. That is three days at the end of the year,” said Garner. “Now we are into the week before Memorial Day with no make up days. So you can see if you make them all up, you are going to push them until after Memorial Day.”

Gov. Michael L. Parson signed House Bill (HB) 161 and 401 July 11 along with several other bills. HB 161 and 401 will push back possible school-start dates in 2020 and years to follow by at least four days, or no more than 10 days out from the first Monday in September. The previous law allowed schools to start up to 14 days before the first Monday in September as long as they held a public hearing and voted.

“So we will not have a mandatory calendar hearing — we won’t have to host that, because we cannot start more than 14 days prior to the first Monday of September,” Garner told the board.

The board will have to decide how they will handle snow days in regards to the five days they build into the school year to accommodate missed days.

“We go enough days that we can forgive five snow days. That means the state says we have to go 1,040 hours and we go more than 1,040 hours,” Garner said. “If we missed a day, we wouldn’t have to make that day up — or we could. That is a local decision by the board.”

Garner explained concerns the board will need to deal with, such as which days should the board forgive? The first five? Every other five? Or where do forgiveness days fall? Do you forgive them all, or make everyone make them up? Or forgive students, and employees have to make them up? What does that look like?

He listed options that students may have off on Presidents Day or Martin Luther King, Jr., Day if there are no snow days. Or they may need to attend classes if snow days have occurred.

The liaison team is going to start discussions in September to determine next year’s calendar because it is going to impact a lot of “dominos,” Garner said. 

“Like when (we are) talking about professional development days, parent teacher conference week, when Christmas can happen, when we come back, spring break, graduation — all those things just keep getting pushed back,” Garner said.

The board will need to make most of these decisions by next month to allow the district’s liaison team enough time to develop the 2020-21 calendar.

“We are going to have to figure that out and let the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) know that,” Garner said. “The forgiveness days will give the board some flexibility.”

The law doesn’t take effect until the start of the fall 2020 year.