How Missouri's new school start date bill could affect four-day week school districts

WARSAW, Mo. -- Students in the Warsaw School District will be back in class next Tuesday, August 13.

But with a new law passed this year, the earliest they can be back next year is August 24.

For a school district that only goes to school four days a week, the administration is looking at how this new law will affect them.

The district moved to a four-day school week for the 2018-2019 school year.

Superintendent Shawn Poyser says they saw a 5% increase in attendance over the 2017-2018 school year, when they went to class five days a week.

To get out of school in May, the district had to add 30 minutes to the school day, giving them over 40 extra hours of instruction time. Missouri requires 1,044 hours in the classroom.

"If we're in school for two hours and the weather gets bad and we have to send kids home, we don't have to make up that full day, those two hours count toward the total of 1044," Poyser said.

Under the new state law, schools will no longer be allowed to start more than 14 days before Labor Day, the first Monday in September.

In 2020, Labor Day is September 7, the latest possible day for the holiday.

Now, the 61 Missouri schools that operate on a four-day week have to figure out what they can do moving forward.

One option is adding time to the school day.

"If we added, lets just say, 10 minutes to the day, we can make up three and a half days," Poyser said.

A second option is the district can cut instruction time from their current 1086 hours to get out in mid-May.

"We're looking at something like May 21, that's with 1047 hours," Poyser noted.

Or, things can stay the same, extending the year into late may or into June.

"We're going to have several things to look at and options to discuss," Poyser added.

Poyser said all the discussions so far have been informal, but the district does plan to make a decision at its February board meeting.