To the Editor:
The 2013 Girls State Basketball Tournament aired the Northwest Iowa teams of Spirit Lake and Estherville against each other. The contest between the two was scheduled to be played in Des Moines at a late afternoon hour. Students and patrons of both schools wished to attend the game.
The dilemma: a) about four hours of travel time is necessary from either community to reach Des Moines; b) to allow students to safely make the trip, schools would have to dismiss by 1:30; and c) a 2:30 dismissal is required by the State Department of Education to constitute a complete day of school. So where did the predicament leave the Superintendent of each school? Should they dismiss classes early by two hours and lose counting a day of session or should they dismiss only one hour early and jeopardize safety and the opportunity to arrive in Des Moines at game time? The Superintendents individually and jointly appealed to the Department of Education for a one-time exception to the rule by counting a full day of school even though classes would be dismissed at 1:30. The request was flatly denied!
It is common knowledge that yearly almost every school in Iowa is granted a waiver to commence up to two or three weeks before Labor Day. State statute allows public schools to open no sooner than the week preceding Labor Day. The State Department of Education of Iowa permits schools to break the law by issuing the waivers to open early!
The practice of granting some waivers and disallowing others sends a terrible message to our communities and our students. Shame on you, Department of Education-always follow the law or press to do away with the law!