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State Education Dept. proposal could change school calendars

State Education Dept. proposal could change school calendars
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ALBANY — A proposal from the State Education Department could change the way public school districts count their instructional days.

Current education law requires that school districts be in session for 180 days to receive state aid. Minimum instructional hours per day are based on grade level. Kindergarten through sixth-grade students must have five hours of instructional time, and older students must have five and a half. The current formula means a minimum of 900 to 990 hours of instruction for students throughout the 180-day year.

The State Education Department’s proposal suggested allowing districts to count half-days toward their annual instructional hour goal, which they currently cannot do. It would maintain the 900- to 990-hour requirement, but allow greater flexibility in what days are counted. The proposal also suggested allowing schools to open sooner than Sept. 1.

The issue of school schedule inflexibility was brought to light after a major snowstorm in March left many districts already reaching their snow day allowance. A memorandum was issued by the State Aid Office in April reminding districts of the 180-day minimum, and “This memo generated a number of questions and concerns in the field,” according to the State Education Department.

An advisory committee was formed to address the concerns, and five main areas were noted, including the effect the current rule has on snow days and recess.

Changes to the instructional calendar could require a change in teachers’ contracts, and would most likely be decided at a district level.

A notice of proposed rule making will be posted on the state’s website on Wednesday. It’s expected that following the 45-day public comment period, the proposed amendment will be submitted to the Board of Regents for consideration at its March 2018 meeting. If adopted at the March 2018 meeting, the proposed amendment will become effective on March 28,

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