Students in local school districts will get at least a partial break from making up the numerous days missed this year due to winter weather and sickness.
House Bill 554, signed Tuesday by Gov. Bob Holden, requires schools to make up the first seven days of canceled classes, but allows for the next five missed days to be forgiven.
Districts still have to make up any cancellations subsequent to the five forgiven days, but the new law is a welcome relief for Southeast Missouri schools, some of which missed as many as 15 days this year because of weather and a widespread outbreak of a flu-like virus.
"It helped us immensely," said Duane Schindler, superintendent of the Meadow Heights School District where classes were canceled 15 times this year. Three unscheduled cancellations were originally built into the calendar, leaving 12 to be made-up.
The new bill allows the district, which was originally scheduled to dismiss May 16, to hold the final day of classes May 22 and still take April 18 and 21 off for spring break.
"Those five days would have thrown us past Memorial Day, and we really wanted our students and teachers to be out before that, so we came out well with this bill," Schindler said.
Oak Ridge superintendent Cheri Fuemmeler said she watched the bill very closely as it passed through the House and Senate to see how it would affect her district.
Pending approval from the Oak Ridge School Board, the district will forgive three of the 10 days missed this year, allowing for an early dismissal April 16 and two full days off April 17 and 18 for spring break.
The district was originally scheduled to have that entire week off, but the unscheduled cancellations forced it to be used as makeup time. The last of school at Oak Ridge is scheduled for May 23.
"It does make a difference," Fuemmeler said. "It will give students and teachers a little break before coming back to get ready for MAP testing and the end of the year activities."
Passage of the bill has allowed Scott City schools to drop two days off the end of the year, making the last day of classes May 21.
The district was originally scheduled for spring break April 14 to 18, but will hold classes that week as partial makeup for the 11 days the school missed this year.
"The educational process was interrupted quite a bit through all that weather, and I think that it's good we're in school through May 21," said superintendent Diann Bradshaw.
Although Jackson schools missed eight days and are eligible to forgive one of those days, assistant superintendent Dr. Rita Fisher said the district has decided to make up all of the cancellations.
"I can see districts that missed 10 or 12 days using the new rule, but eight is not really a big deal and we were able to make those days up," Fisher said. Jackson's last day of school will be May 29.
The bill has no impact on the Cape Girardeau School District, which missed a total of eight days, but forgave two of those cancellations because of extra days built into the calendar, leaving the required makeup days at six. June 9 is the last day of school for Cape Girardeau students.
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