Bill okayed could mean longer school days, shorter school years

MADISON (WITI) -- The Senate has passed a bill that would allow Wisconsin schools to extend school days and shorten school years. Instead of requiring 180 days of instruction plus a certain number of hours of instruction -- the bill would keep the "hours" requirement and allow districts to decide how they spread those hours across their school calendar.

The bill, if approved, would rid of the requirement that schools teach for 180 days or lose state funding. However, schools are still required to teach the same number of hours under the bill.

If approved, the bill would give school districts more options in terms of how they design their school calendar.

"It allows some flexibility -- especially with all the days we've had for snow days or cold days where school has been called off. It offers a little bit of flexibility so that students don't have to be in through the summer," Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said.

"We should get rid of the 180-day requirement. We still have the hours of instruction in place and schools will be graded on how well they do and how well their students do," Sen. Luther Olsen said.

"It helps us modernize our calendars in that it's going to provide opportunities to customize learning a lot easier than we have in the past. It's going to allow for schools to actually consider going year round," State Superintendent Tony Evers said.

If the bill is approved, schools could have fewer days in the classroom on the calendar, as long as they pack in the required amount of hours.

New Berlin School District Superintendent Joe Garza says he sees this as an opportunity for school districts to tailor the schedule to support their goals for students.

"In the day and age of technology, it allows us to have a lot more flexibility than we've ever had before and so with that it would allow us flexibility to be able to deliver instruction in multiple different ways in order to get the students to achieve at high levels," Garza said.

The bill now heads to the state Assembly.