In the 21st Century (and obviously we're already a decade into it), the school year needs to change to fit the changing nature of education and the changing needs of society.
Iowa law defines a day of school as a day when students are under the supervision and instruction of teachers. And the state of Iowa requires 180 such days. The traditional assumption has always been that to be under "the supervision and instruction" of teachers, the students must be in the immediate presence of the teachers.
This has been a silly hoop to jump through on snow days when the buses are already in motion but the oncoming storm has forced school to close. Some schools have actually pulled a single kid off a bus and brought him into the building near a teacher so the school could claim students (at least one) were working with teachers.
I contacted some legislators this fall and asked them to consider revising the law. But what Iowa schools really need is a new interpretation by the Iowa Department of Education, and more specifically the new Director of the D.E., who as of this writing has yet to be named. Does our workforce now employ people who never leave home, i.e., telecommuters? Has not this trend been predicted to increase? Should not our schools be adapted to this change in our work force?
Americas colleges are increasing their on-line offerings. On-line universities are exploding with cyber-matriculants. It is a new type of teaching and learning that our schools would be wise to offer to our students. A couple of states have now with foresight begun requiring students complete at least one on-line class in four years to graduate from high school.
For Iowa to keep pace, we need to reconsider what the school day truly needs to be. I would suggest that the "supervision and instruction" of students can take place in an on-line classroom anywhere, anytime via computers and internet.