The superintendent of the Sioux City School District is one of the education leaders who is opposed to Governor Terry Branstad’s call for the state Department of Education to come up with new rules that would prevent school districts from starting school before September.
Current state law requires schools to start in the week in which September first falls, but nearly all districts receive waivers to start earlier. Sioux City superintendent, Paul Gausman, says the waiver system is working because it allows districts to decided their start time at the local level.
“We firmly believe that this is a decision best made in the local community and by the local citizens on the local schoolboard,” Gausman says. “It is something that we have participated in every year, we recognize the law, we follow the law by applying for the waiver. We understand that 340 out of 348 school districts in the state apply for the waiver and have been granted the waiver. It is important to us, locally here to begin school when we do.”
Gausman says his district starts school early so they can have their semester final exams before the Christmas break begins. “We want to make certain that those assessments are well prepared and the students are well prepared for those assessments. And we believe that it is the best interests of students to conclude that first semester instruction — and assessment — prior to that holiday break, so that we can start fresh with a new semester when we come back in January,” Gausman says.
The governor argues the tourism industry loses millions of dollars when schools start early, as families stop traveling and teenagers quit their summer jobs. There have been attempts to address the issue in the legislature, but lawmakers have failed to take any action.
By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City