The Jasper School District Board of Education met in special session Tuesday, Feb. 6, and approved the superintendent's recommendation to make an application to the state asking for a waiver to change from a traditional to an alternate school calendar to make up time lost due to recent winter weather.
Unscheduled school closings are having an effect on school districts this year due to a change in school law.
The Arkansas Department of Education says decisions regarding school district calendars, the use of Alternate Methods of Instruction (AMI) days, and whether to close the school and use makeup days are made completely on the local district level. However, districts that choose to continue to use AMI days rather than closing and later using makeup days will not get any funding under the LEARNS Act.
The Arkansas LEARNS Act says a public school district must be open for on-site, in-person instruction for at least 178 days, or 1,068 hours in order to get funding from the state for teacher's salaries. It essentially ended sending home designated packets containing school work assignments for students to complete whenever they stayed at home due to inclement weather. By turning in the completed work students received credit for attending class.
At the special meeting that began at 4:30 p.m., Brasel said the state has allowed the district to have the option of changing the school calendar at mid-year. She said the school district is looking at adding 6-8 days at the end of the year (depending on campus) if the board didn't do something.
The schools' staffs were polled on what they would like to do and they overwhelmingly agreed to ask for the waiver, going to an alternate calendar that counts hours of instruction rather than days of instruction, Brasel told the board. The faculty also agreed to use Friday, Feb. 9, as a student contact day rather than a planned in-service day, and to give up the Good Friday holiday to make up two days of school missed.
Brasel said she had to meet with each school principal because each campus has a different bell schedule.
The state calls for schools to complete 1,068 hours of instruction during the year. Anything over that the schools can bank and use for makeup days.