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State legislators consider question: What counts as a school day?

New state bill could revert to 5 hours and a teacher

The new description of an “instructional day” for school districts worked out nicely for Woodland School to have a Digital Learning Day on Monday, but that definition still remains under discussion.

Woodland Superintendent Ryan McGuckin said the introduction of new evidence-based funding changed the definition to have no minimum requirement of hours and not require the students be in a classroom to count as a full school day.

This allowed the district to have a Digital Learning Day where students could take course work prepared by their teachers at home and not use a snow day that would extend their schedule.

A new house bill being discussed in Springfield would revert the definition to require no less than five hours of schoolwork per day and require the direct supervision of teachers or non-teaching personnel.

McGuckin said the discussion has been ongoing for more than a month and any change could change the district’s ability to utilize these days in the next school year.

It’s one house bill that State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, has been hearing about from school districts.

“I believe legislatures will try to understand why the change has been made and determine whether or not the schools should have the additional flexibility,” Barickman said in a phone interview Monday.

But Barickman said schools will need to have an answer soon and a reason for the original change to remove a minimum hour requirement and a need to be in the classroom is not clear.

“We’ll give some consideration as to why the change has been made and whether an additional change undoing it is warranted,” Barickman said. “But the legislative process may take months and schools are faced with a dilemma as many are setting calendars and cannot wait months for this to be worked out.”

Barickman said he’s always advocated for local control and traditionally supports decisions made at a local level.

Still, he expects to touch base with school districts to hear their concerns as well as the State Board of Education and whether there is a reason as to why Digital Learning or “eLearning” days should not count as school days.

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