New Texas law prompts longer school days

Students will spend a few more minutes in class (KXAN Photo)
Students in class (KXAN Photo)

LEANDER (KXAN) — It’s back-to-school and longer school days for some students across Central Texas. A new state law for public school districts in Texas require administrators to track time in the classroom by minutes rather than days.

On their first day back to school on Monday, Leander Independent School District school extended class time by five minutes to comply with a new state law which went into effect Sept. 2015.

“It’s really about the amount of time the kids are in the classroom,” explained Veronica Sopher, Assistant Superintendent of Community and Government Relations. “Now that we’re actually tracking minutes it’s not so much about the weather days, it’s about our delay opportunities. In other words, if we have to delay school, it’s actually going to take minutes out of the school day as opposed to just a regular day where you came in a little bit late.”

House Bill 2610 requires districts to have at least 75,600 minutes of classroom instruction. The old law required at least 180 days.

The new way to measure the amount of time students spend in school is supposed to help avoid inclement weather make-up days.

“The way Leander ISD schedule is set up currently, we have enough days and we have enough minutes built into the system to make sure we’re in compliance,” explained Sopher. “You take a risk moving into the severe weather time of year and not having enough minutes, which is only a challenge if you have a delayed start.”

Elementary schools in the district start at the same time, 7:45 a.m., but end five minutes later at 2:50 p.m.  It’s the opposite for some high schools which now start five minutes earlier at 8:40 a.m. and go until 3:40 p.m. Cedar Park High School and the district’s middle schools will not see any changes because they already meet the new state requirements.

School districts across Central Texas are looking at what changes need to be made to adjust to the new law.

Starting Tuesday, Eanes ISD will add ten minutes to the school day for all elementary schools. Middle and high schools will have the same length of day, but their start and end times will move five minutes later to help with bus routes.

Hays CISD will also add ten minutes to the school day for all elementary schools, but middle and high school students’ schedules will not change.

Georgetown ISD will only make changes to one campus. East View High School will add eight minutes to the school day.

Austin ISD, Round Rock ISD, Lake Travis ISD, Del Valle ISD and San Marcos CISD will not make any changes this school year, but some may decide to make changes next school year.

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