The Oklahoma Senate has passed a bill that would set a minimum amount of days schools have to be in session, effectively ruling out four-day school weeks.
However, the new regulations would offer districts options on minimum amount of class times. Districts could, in theory, continue using four-day school weeks, but it would require a waiver.
Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, voted in favor of SB 441 on Monday, while Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, voted against it. Norman Reps. Merleyn Bell, Emily Virgin and Jacob Rosecrants voted against a similar bill in the House earlier this year.
“Senate Bill 441 is a great piece of legislation that puts the focus on the students and lets local schools make the ultimate decision on their school calendar,” Sen. Marty Quinn, the bill’s author, said. “This bill has been the culmination of a lot of hard work by members of the Senate and I appreciate those senators who supported this bill.”
The bill passed 30-16 on Monday. It will now move to the House.
SB 441 replaces the current option of 180 days or 1,080 hours of instruction time with three options starting in the 2021-22 academic year. The ability to fit 1,080 hours in an unrestricted amount of days enabled districts like Noble Public Schools to implement four-day weeks.
Under SB 441, schools would be able to choose either 165 days of class time, 1,080 hours of class time with a minimum of 165 days, or 1,080 hours with no minimum amount of days so long as the district achieves the minimum performance standards in both academics and money saved.
Those educational standards have not been set yet by the State Department of Education. And they still will need approval by the legislature.
Both State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and lawmakers have come out against four-day school weeks. This has caused concern for some districts that the minimum standards could remove what has been a helpful budgeting tool.
Noble is one of the more than 90 districts in Oklahoma to have four-day school weeks. It is a source of debate among lawmakers, with supporters arguing it is an effective cost-savings initiative and opponents calling it a detractor from the state’s public education system.
Those who supported the bill in the Senate seem to think of it as a way to ensure students receive enough time in the classroom.
“More instructional time is a critical element in the formula of student success,” Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat said. “That’s why Senate Republicans made this piece of legislation one of our four agenda items for this year’s session. When we look at education policy, everything we do should put the focus on the student. Senate Bill 441 puts student achievement squarely in focus by getting them more time in the classroom with a quality, professional educator.”