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.