State could change school year length requirement

GREEN BAY – The length of a school year could soon change in Wisconsin.

There’s a bill in the state Legislature that would do away with what’s called the 180-day rule. That requires students to be in class 180 days a year.

The state Legislature could allow school districts to adjust how many days students are in class.

State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, introduced the bill.

“Especially this year, with all the snow and the cold days people are looking at, ‘OK, we have the hours so do we really need to keep going to the middle of June?’” Olsen said at his Ripon home.

Currently, schools have hours of instruction which ranges from 437 to more than 1,100 hours depending on the level. Schools also must be in session for 180 days. Under Olsen’s bill, the number of hours stay, but the day rule would be erased.

The Pulaski schools superintendent hopes the bill passes. The district has four weather cancellation days to work around this year. It applied for a waiver through the state for one of the days.

“It would make the waiver completely unnecessary and I’m sure for other districts it would give them the opportunity to not have to extend the school year,” said Superintendent Milt Thompson.

The bill goes to the Assembly next.

Some Democrats, such as Rep. Eric Genrich of Green Bay, don’t support it.

He said he is “concerned that it will allow for rural school districts to dramatically reduce the number of days that some of our children attend classes.”

Educators say fewer days in school buildings could save money. But too long of school days could be unproductive.

Parents we spoke to say they see conflict whether the 180 rule goes or if it stays.

“You’re either going to cut into vacation times or whatever their summer plans are, their sports, or if you’re going to mess with the school day and it’s going to change day-to-day towards the end of the school year, that makes it hard to get anything else done during the day,” said Toni Miller, whose children attend two different Green Bay public schools.

If the bill passes, it could be signed into law by the end of the month.

State Schools Superintendent Tony Evers says he supports getting rid of the 180-day rule.

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