Delayed first day

State legislature pushes back first day of school


Kayla Reyes, Paper Editor-in-Chief

Missouri students will soon have to gear up for a big change coming next school year. House Bill 604, which was signed by Gov. Mike Parson on July 11, will modify the start date of Missouri public schools by allowing districts to set an opening date no earlier than 14 days prior to the first Monday in September. Next year, August 24 will be the earliest start date for schools across the state. FHSD’s first day typically falls into early August, so with the new legislation, many aspects of FHSD’s schedule will be affected. 

Current law requires only a 10-day period between the first day of school and the first Monday of September. At present, schools are also permitted to start earlier given the school board holds a public meeting and votes in favor of doing so. This will not be an option for public school districts starting next year. 

The bill was driven primarily by the state’s tourism industry, which hopes to bring in more money in late August with children returning to school at a later date. Missouri school districts already have the 2020-2021 calendar planned out, which will have to be altered to be in accordance with the new legislation. This may seem easy enough, but the changes made to next year’s schedule may be quite drastic. 

According to Mrs. Lisa Simpkins, FHSD Chief Human Resource Officer and calendar committee chairperson, next year’s calendar is still in the works. 

“We just have a survey out and we’re asking for volunteers to participate in the committee. That’s as far as we’ve gotten,” Mrs. Simpkins said.

Several meetings will be held in September to discuss the changes that need to be made next year. The committee will decide what aspects absolutely need to stay and what the district can do without. Once the committee creates a draft of next year’s calendar, it will be approved or disapproved by the School Board.

 According to Dr. Sonny Arnel, the district is still working on creating a solution that will combat the many issues that may be faced with the new regulations.

“This new policy by the state has really dramatically put a crimp in our system. So now we’re trying to figure out how to make that work,” Dr. Arnel said. 

Dr. Arnel explained many aspects of both semesters may be affected, from fall break and finals schedules to EOCs and AP exams. 

Next year, it is possible that finals will be taken after winter break, which puts students at a disadvantage. After two weeks away from school and only a few days to refresh students’ memories, performance may be impacted.

“I really regret the state has done that because I think that puts our kids in not the optimal setting academically, which is the priority for schools,” Dr Arnel added. 

In addition to first semester finals, spring exams, including EOCs and AP exams, could be affected. Less material will be covered by the time exams are administered, which could cause students to perform poorly on these exams.

“Right now, we have aligned our AP tests to really act as the final for those classes. Academically, this [bill] is really not great. I believe that with all my heart,” Dr. Arnel said.

Mrs. Simpkins assures that the committee will take all these issues into account when forming next year’s calendar.

“Some people want to continue with the two-week Christmas break. Some people want finals before Christmas break. So all of these things will have to be considered moving forward,” Mrs. Simpkins said.

Though there will be many hurdles to jump over next year, Dr. Arnel ensures that everything possible is being done to combat these changes.

“We will make it work and make sure we take care of our kids,” Dr. Arnel said.