Missouri school districts are trying to figure out how to support learning amidst school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. While some districts are transitioning to remote learning, others are not, and the districts that aren’t adopting remote learning will need to figure out how to make up for lost learning time.
Hopefully by late summer, the pandemic will be controlled enough for students to start the next school year normally. One idea for districts attempting to make up the lost time would be to start the next school year earlier. Unfortunately, the mandated start date law from 2019 would make this impossible.
Last year, a law passed limiting when school districts could start the school year in the hopes of advancing tourism with a few extra weeks of summer vacation. Putting tourism ahead of education was a bad idea in the first place, and there were other concerns with the law, such as a later start date perpetuating the academic summer slide. The law is an example of why we should be careful about taking away local control from schools, even for seemingly trivial matters such as school start dates. For districts that are not transitioning to remote learning, they have few options to make up the lost weeks, and this law eliminates one feasible option.
The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of flexibility in education policy. Local control can give districts the flexibility to properly respond to student needs.