Iowa Department of Education director Ryan Wise says that question has come up a lot lately.
“The way code is currently written, it does not allow e-learning days to count toward instructional days or instructional hours,” Wise says. State law requires districts to either have 180-days of school or one-thousand-80 hours.
“Iowa code does define a school day as a day when the schools are in session and teachers are providing instruction,” according to Wise. “So, we are not yet at a point in Iowa where we can count electronic learning days toward days or hours of instruction.”
Wise says the question has come up a lot with the number of cancelled days this year — and because schools have been trying out e-learning.
“A lot of districts are starting to consider this, and actually even starting pilot e-learning. Not counting toward those days or hours, but really trying to learn lessions and seeing can instruction continue,” Wise says. Obviously there are lot of things to wrestle with — like how do we meet the needs of students who might have disabilities or special needs, or students who might not have a computer.”
The discussion of online learning has been talked about too for rural districts with declining enrollment as a way to beef up their offerings.
“Every year I have been here, this is my seventh year at the department, online learning, e-learning, just becomes more and more a part of the conversation. So, how do we ensure that can be an option when possible and appropriate. And when it is that it is high quality,” Wise says. “That’s definitely for rural, and for urban areas as well is a key conversation that is emerging in education in Iowa.”
He says having e-learning count as actual school hours is still in the development stage.
“We’re not at the point of that yet being an option or that being built into a bill that is being considered at this point,” Wise says, “but I think it is something that likely will be discussed in the future.”
Some school districts have had 10 or more days of classes cancelled this year by the weather.