The remnants of flooding in south Louisiana has sparked conversations regarding a law that’s been on the books for years, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls says.
During his superintendent’s report in Monday’s Webster Parish School Board meeting, he talked about a law that dictates schools must make up days missed due to natural disasters. The number of days schools are closed due to natural disaster must be added to the end of the school year or the school system must lengthen the school day to meet the number of instructional hours.
“That law has been there for a long, long time,” he said. “It is now front and center at the Board of Education and Secondary Education and will probably go before the legislature to alter that law simply because of the large number of school systems that are facing natural disasters all over the state.”
Namely East Baton Rouge Parish, he said. School systems all over the state are watching what will happen when BESE was asked to waive the school days missed due to flooding. Schools in East Baton Rouge Parish opened this week.
Another instance is the ice storm a year and a half ago that closed schools, and most recently, the flooding in March.
“The main issue is money,” he said. “It costs a lot of money to add days to the end of the year and we have to run schools two, three, four or five days that’s not budgeted. Some districts are very poor, and they just don’t have the money to make up five days.”
Another issue is that if minutes are added to the school day, that means school gets out later, busses are running later and schools are open longer.
He says at the superintendents’ meeting, they are asking the state to give them criteria to follow that is consistent where the district will know if they can afford to extend the school year.
Another option District 6 Board Member John Madden offered is asking the state to extend Minimum Foundation Program funding to account for the days added to the school year. Each school district gets a certain amount from the state each year, based on the number of students, to fund teacher salaries and operations. Once that is set, then if the school year is extended, that means those are days that teachers aren’t getting paid and schools are staying open that aren’t budgeted.
As a result, the school board has directed the superintendent to draft a resolution to allow school districts to have a little leeway in deciding whether to waive those days or add them onto the end of the school year. Once adopted, then the resolution will go to area legislators, the Louisiana School Board Association and BESE.