School start date. New law: No classes before August 23

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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

The school start date debate is over.

Governor Terry Branstad signed a bill Friday afternoon setting August 23 as the earliest date that school can start in Iowa. Branstad described the bill as a compromise that will resolve the issue for the long term.

“We had schools that were starting early in August and this was really hurting families and their vacations, and hurting also the tourism economy of our state—the State Fair and Okoboji and many communities around the state,” Branstad told reporters earlier last week. “So I think this is a reasonable compromise.”

Last fall, 67 Iowa school districts, including Central, started the fall semester during the second week of August. Only 14 districts started after August 23. Many of those were clustered around Des Moines and the Lake Okoboji areas.

Central had not yet approved a district calendar at the time of the bill signing but, according to Superintendent Nick Trenkamp, under the old law, which allowed waivers for early start dates, classes likely would have started the week of August 10. 

Trenkamp said he was  disappointment over the new ruling.

“It goes against our attempt to shorten summer vacation and build in short breaks throughout the year,” he said. He added that keeping the same number of breaks for 2015-2016 would have extended the school year through June, an idea that Trenkamp believes lacks community support. 

Trenkamp said classes would likely begin August 24 or 25; the final day of school would be sometime during the second week of June.

Many people believe the school start date argument distracted legislators from an even more important issue: school funding.

“It’s disappointing that more people were vocal about the school calendar over school funding,” Trenkamp said. “Look at the staff and programs that have been cut in our schools. For the past two years, our parents have requested more class offerings when we give our parent survey. How do we do this without funding?”

“There good news is that there’s still time to make a difference,” Trenkamp continued. “Everyone who supports our public schools should be contacting their representatives to let them know there is nothing more important that our kids. Our state budget is growing by five percent. Why do our children get only 1.25 percent?”

Central did receive some good news last week. Voters approved two issues dealing with the continuation of current taxes. The 10-year physical plant and equipment levy was renewed. Voters also extended the revenue purpose statement for the local option tax.

“This means a lot to the future of the Central Community School district,” Trenkamp said. “By continuing to support these two funding streams, Central will continue to receive approximately $575,000 a year for adding to the transportation fleet and technology, and maintaining our buildings and grounds. I believe the margin of victory shows that our community understands the significance and importance of having our own school district. Central has excellent community support and the voter turnout showed that.”

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