HB 1137 May Lengthen School Year in Some Districts

Speaking of education, one quite little bill coasted through the Legislature this year that could make the school year longer in a few districts. House Bill 1137 amends the statute that sets the minimum length of the school year by excluding passing time from the hours schools may count for grades six through twelve.

Schools must have grades six and up in class for at least 962.5 hours each school year. Prime sponsor Rep. Jacqueline Sly (R-33/Rapid City) told House Education last month that about half of South Dakota’s school districts count passing time toward that minimum. Rep. Sly said that only eight schools cut the calendar close and schedule less than 1,000 instructional hours; 63 schedule 1,000 to 1,100; 66 schedule 1,100 to 1,200; and two schedule more than 1,200. Rep. Sly said she brought HB 1137 to make those reported hours more uniform. House Education thought that was fine, as did everyone else in the Legislature. Governor Dennis Daugaard signed HB 1137 into law last Wednesday, so several dozen school districts will be recalculating.

It may be that the schools with the least hours already exclude passing time, so HB 1137 may not increase anyone’s school year. But consider this math:

The Aberdeen school district has kids in class for 172.5 days. At Simmons Middle School, a normal school day is eight 45-minute periods and a 20-minute homeroom. The kids have eight 3-minute gaps between classes, meaning 24 minutes of passing time each day.Multiply those 24 minutes by 172.5 school days, and you get 69 hours of passing time.

Suppose a school with a comparable calendar and daily schedule is counting that passing time in its hours. 69 hours is nearly 11 days of class time. If schools are within that margin of the minimum 962.5 hours, they may need to cut back on the snow days built into the calendar or bite the bullet and add a few days to their meeting time.

Update 07:45 CDT: The Department of Education lists the instructional hours reported by every school in the state. Looking at high schools, Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Belle Fourche, Viborg-Hurley, Bridgewater-Emery, and Mitchell report some of the highest instructional hours. Lemmon, McLaughlin, Bison, Lead-Deadwood, Henry, Wolsey-Wessington, and Elk Point Jefferson report the lowest high school instructional times.

4 Responses to HB 1137 May Lengthen School Year in Some Districts

  1. Joseph Nelson

    The final bill excludes the intermission times. Emphasis mine.

    The number of hours in the school term for grades six through twelve may not be less than nine hundred sixty-two and one-half hours, exclusive of intermissions. An intermission is the time when pupils are at recess or lunch and for grades six through twelve, the passing time between classes.
    SD House Bill No. 1137; An Act to exclude the passing time between classes in the number of hours required in the school term for secondary students.

    That makes me think that a lot of the schools will end up tacking a lot more days onto the schedule, just to be safe.

    I have multiple questions on this though:
    What about Study Hall hours? (Do they still do study hall in high school? I have been out 15 years….)
    Would school activities that instruct children in sports, math, and debate count as instructional hours?
    How does in-school suspension affect this?
    What about out-of-school suspension?
    What about Saturday detention? (Yes, I got Saturday detention once, but this was in Minnesota, and maybe they do not do that any more.)
    What about those days when your teacher is lazy, and you just watch a movie? (I seem to recall in high school that the last day of school was a joke, and we had parties instead of instruction.)

  2. Study hall: many of the schools I’ve worked in have eliminated study halls… although time to sit and study works its way into things called “home room”, “super study”, “core enhancement,” etc. Study halls do still count toward instructional time.

    Extracurricular/cocurricular activities don’t count, although in many cases, they should.

    Suspension, detention, and other opportunities students earn with their behavior do not affect the number of hours offered by the school for the general population. SDCL 13-26-1, the statute amended by HB 1137, makes its hourly requirement of the school, not of individual students. The kid who puts in thirty hours of detention during the school year doesn’t get to knock off a week early in May.

    If we were to dispatch Ed cops with stopwatches to measure just how much instructional activity was going on, for every minute they subtracted for teacher laziness and confusion, or movies and last-day parties, they’d have to hang around and add up help teachers give before school, during lunch, and after class. Where would that balance fall?

  3. Joseph Nelson

    Drat! I think I would have gladly put in more time on Saturday, if it meant I got out of school a week or two early.

    Not sure what the end goal/purpose of public education is for South Dakota. But I have been reading a lot of John Gatto, and we home school, so maybe I am biased with my attitude towards public education.

  4. Remember Belle Fourche has a modified 4 day week, so I think it’s odd they would be in highest instructional hours. Longer day, but few days.