New law to affect school start dates

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Asbill: ‘The law will have a few unintended consequences’

A change in the law that says school districts in Missouri will have to adjust their first day of school beginning next year has some impact on a local level.

Richard Asbill, Cassville superintendent, said these changes will take affect for the 2020-2021 school year.

“As the law is written, in August one year from now, schools cannot have a first student day prior to Aug. 24,” he said. “We are able to change the schedule next year to fit into this.”

Asbill said the law will have a few unintended consequences.

“For instance, this will impact certain professional development that we can offer,” he said. “There are 14 sending schools to Scott Tech, and for us, we want to continue to align to the Monett schedule so that our students can continue to go there.”

Asbill said the school pays for those students’ tuition to go there, and there is a priority to maximize that time for those students.

“We don’t want to be out of school while they are in school,” he said. “Another unintended consequence is that the law is for public K-12 schools, Cassville offers dual credit and college prep classes, so there are going to be classes that are aligned to Crowder, Missouri State, Missouri Southern and Drury’s schedule.”

Asbill said the students will either have to start earlier than the first day of school or we will have to adjust.

“As we try to close our semesters, if the number of days end after the first of the year, how do we adjust their educational plan to meet the requirements?” he said. “For Cassville, a lake-area community, tourism is very important to us, and agriculture is one of Missouri’s big economic drivers.”

Asbill said he believes that the effort to make it a priority because of the economy is important, but that it should still be up to each community to make the decision on what is best for their community.

“There are things that will impact this community in late May and early June that may not be relevant to another community,” he said. “So, having a blanket policy that says everyone has to do something doesn’t fit.”

Asbill said the local elected Boards of Education needs the right and responsibility to administer programs in Cassville.

“I don’t believe that administering that from Jefferson City is always the best choice,” he said. “I agree with the emphasis in economics, and we believe that is very important here, but not to have a one size fits all.”

Asbill said one part of the push for this was to increase attendance at the Missouri State Fair.

“In my opinion, they realized that wasn’t a very productive argument,” he said. “So, they started talking about if Missouri families had one to two more weeks of summer breaks, would that help drive families to Missouri locations for family trips?”

Asbill said the main purpose was to keep schools from starting so early.

“The issue was that we weren’t starting early unless our teachers and Board of Education reviewed that start date,” he said. “A lot of things we try to do for our start date are based around our parents, Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks and there just aren’t a lot of communities that have an emphasis on March 1.”

Asbill said the Cassville school district has to be cognizant that its community has put that emphasis on March 1.

“For us to build in those days to accommodate that are not restricted by a law that says we can’t start before Aug. 24,” he said. “It will make it more difficult, but it won’t be impossible. In fact, I have already started working on the 2020-2021 calendar with Monett, Aurora and other school districts, because we want to be providing the best and consistent opportunities for our students.”

Asbill said districts have already started to come together to work on options that would be good for all districts and their students.

“We want to do what is right for students and teachers and that is what we will make good decisions based on,” he said.

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