New Missouri Law Forces Calendar Committee to Restructure 2020-2021 School Calendar


After school junior Brandon Bridgeman walks to his bus to go home. Starting in the 2020-21 school year, school will not be able to start until two weeks before the first Monday in September. “There’s so many things to consider in the calendar,” Lisa Simpkins, co-chair of the Calendar Committee, said. “There’s so many different perspectives and different ways to manipulate the calendar [that] affect different people in different ways.” (Photo by Sam Watkins)

By Emily Hood, Executive Producer of FHNtodayTV

Eliminating fall break, taking finals after Christmas break and continuing school beyond Memorial Day were changes to the FHSD Calendar that were considered after new legislation changed the rules for school districts across Missouri.

FHSD called a Calendar Committee, made up of teachers, parents, and other stakeholders, to listen to feedback from members of the district and recommend a new calendar for the 2020-21 school year that adjusts to the new law. Under the new law, the first day of school for next year can be no sooner than August 24.

“With this new change, in the start of the year, we felt like it was a good time to bring the committee back together to get stakeholder input, before we made decisions on how to move forward with the new start date,” Lisa Simpkins, the Co-Chair of the Calendar Committee, said.

On July 11, Governor Mike Parsons signed into law HB 161, stating that Missouri school districts cannot begin school 14 days before the first Monday in September.

The bill was signed into law in an attempt to increase tourism throughout the state by providing more time for families to take vacations and students to work.

“I thought it was disappointing that our state legislature and the governor decided to choose the Travel and Tourism lobby over what’s best for our students,” Michelle Walker, mother and FHSD School Board member, said.  “What’s best for our students is to let the local educators determine what’s best for our students, because they’re the experts.”

The Calendar Committee has certain priorities when creating a calendar, such as including a fall break, creating an even amount of days in each quarter and semester, ending first semester before Christmas break and ending the school year before Memorial Day. These parameters have historically caused the first day of school to be pushed into early August.

Due to the new legislation, the committee discussed which parameters are most important to the students and faculty of the district, while still meeting Missouri’s 1,044 hours of required school instruction and the new required start date.

“I think all of these things are going to continue to be super important, but now we have to figure out, ‘How can we get as much of this that we feel is important in Francis Howell, and meet the new requirement of starting on August 24 in 2020-21?’” Simpkins said.

In 1969, to accomodate for overcrowding in the district, FHSD elementary schools adopted a year-round calendar, where students would be in school for nine weeks, and then get three weeks of break. When Francis Howell decided to opt for a more traditional calendar for the 2011-12 school year in elementary schools, fall break was added to help students and parents adjust to the new system.

The committee will recommend keeping a week-long fall break at the end of October in their draft calendar after many parents and faculty members voiced concerns about removing it.

“Not a lot of schools have a fall break,” Nellie Craver, a parent of four children at Harvest Ridge Elementary, said. “[When you go] on vacation for fall break, you get a better deal. You get less crowds. It’s really nice to have that option for families that want a vacation around that time.”

When creating the calendar, FHSD looks to create an even number of days in each quarter and semester. Because of the loss of 10 days at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year and priority to keep fall break, finals could have to be taken in January. In the current proposed calendar, students could have six days of review before taking finals on Jan. 13-15.

“As a mom, I don’t want my daughter to end up having to study throughout Christmas break, because she’s going to have finals,” Walker said. “I just don’t think it makes good sense to have a break right before that.”

The new calendar could create a required student attendance day on Good Friday, but could give a day off to students and faculty on April 5, the Monday after Easter.

“With the goal of still trying to get out before Memorial Day and still trying to get in a full week of fall break, still trying to get in spring break and Christmas break, we had to start finding some days somewhere,” Simpkins said.

The later start date also results in less time for instruction before AP exams at the high school level, causing AP teachers to re-evaluate their plans to ensure all material is covered.

“We have luckily built in, in our curriculum, just a couple of weeks that we can play with,” William Crow, an AP U.S. Government and Politics teacher, said. “It will not be life or death for us, but in some classes, it might be a little bit more intense.”

With these adjustments to the calendar, the last day of school could be Friday, May 28. If students would have any snow days during the year, the last day of school could be pushed to June 1.

“I feel like by the end of the year, kids do lose that motivation to keep going because we’re getting in the heat and the summer feeling, so I feel like the earlier we can stop school, the better it would be better for us,” sophomore Rana Shaker said.

After the Calendar Committee submitted their final draft, surveys were sent to the community on Oct. 1 to get feedback on the draft. The Board of Education will vote on the calendar in December to make a final decision.

“We are really considering everyone’s input, not just our own personal agenda,” Simpkins said. “We are creating a calendar that’s good for our students.”