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Bill would revise school years into hours, not days, of instruction

Special to the Legal News

Published: April 29, 2011

Two freshman lawmakers from opposite sides of the aisle have joined forces in drafting a bill that seeks to establish a minimum school year for school districts, STEM schools and chartered nonpublic schools based on hours of instruction rather than number of days.

House Bill 191, which has been coined “School Scheduling for a Better Ohio,” would prohibit public schools from being open for instruction prior to Labor Day or after Memorial Day, except in specified circumstances.

The proposed legislation is sponsored by Rep. Bill Hayes, R-Granville, and Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, and recently was introduced into the Ohio General Assembly.

Colton Henson, Hayes’ legislative aide, called the partnership between the two an “interesting dynamic” with Hayes representing a largely rural, farming district and Patmon hailing from an urban area.

Even so, Henson said, both representatives believe in the merits of the proposed legislation.

HB 191 would revise current law to state that the board of education in each city, exempted village, local and joint vocational school district shall provide for the free education of school-age children within its district and be open for instruction, with pupils in attendance, for no less than 480 hours for kindergarten students, unless such students are provided all-day kindergarten.

For students in all-day kindergarten through sixth grade, there would be no less than 960 hours of instruction and for grades seven through 12, HB 191 would establish 1,050 hours of educational instruction. Current law states that schools must provide instruction for a minimum of 182 days each school year.

The bill says that up to 10 hours, instead of four school days, in grades K-6 and up to 11 hours per school year in grades 7-12 where students would otherwise be in attendance would be permitted for individualized parent-teacher conferences and reporting periods.

An additional 10 hours, instead of the current two days, would be allowed for professional meetings of teachers in grades K-6 and there would be up to 11 hours available for such meetings of teachers in grades 7-12.

In addition to carving out school years based on hours of instruction instead of days, HB 191 aims to have local school districts set their school calendar, subject to a few restrictions that include no school before Labor Day, no school after Memorial Day, no extracurricular events Friday through Monday of Labor Day weekend and co-operation with vocational schools and others regarding transportation.

If the bill is successful, the Labor Day weekend extracurricular activity ban would not apply to events that were in contract prior to the initiative’s adoption into law.

HB 191 would establish the ability to receive waivers on some restrictions in certain situations and would allow for workshops, orientation and other teacher/staff activities prior to Labor Day and after Memorial Day.

There would be no conversion to four-day, or less, school weeks and the measure would be subject to collective bargaining agreements that were created prior to any effective date of the bill.

Year-round schools and some other institutions would be exempt from the initiative.

A statement from Hayes and Patmon said the bill would positively impact Ohio’s schools, families and commerce by “providing a more predictable school schedule state-wide and ending the calamity day quandary.”

The statement said the bill would “give schools a more compact time within which to teach and test students” and benefit families by “allowing families to schedule school year and summer time child-care arrangements with more ease (and) allowing families a larger time frame to schedule summer vacations.”

The two said HB 191 also would provide a “greater opportunity for students and others to be engaged in summer employment.”

Hayes and Patmon said the bill would open Memorial Day and Labor Day for “proper reflection” and encourage family travel, vacation and recreation activities.

The bill would help usher in a “broader scope of time for Ohio’s tourism, recreation and retail industries to benefit,” the statement read.

Proposed exemptions to the Labor Day/Memorial Day guidelines would include a school’s scheduling needs being affected by a construction or renovation project that would be underway at the school or another facility operated by the district.

The exemption could apply to schools that need to make up for earlier school closures for specified reasons.

HB 191 is backed by Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl, R-Mount Vernon, Rep. Andrew Thompson, R-Marietta, Rep. John Adams, R-Sidney, Rep. Casey Kozlowski, R-Pierpont, Rep. Timothy Derickson, R-Springboro, Rep. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, Rep. Peter Beck, R-Mason, and Rep. John Barnes, Jr., D-Cleveland.

The bill has been referred to the House Education committee.

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