116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa City school calendars for the next three years — approved last month by the school board — don’t include plans to move to a four-day school week, a conversation that had been initiated by district officials earlier this year.
The school calendars have little to no changes from this current school year. The 2023-24 school year will begin Aug. 23, and the last day is scheduled for June 5, 2024.
Superintendent Matt Degner said that while the school board has not revisited the conversation of a four-day school week it had in March, “our responsibility is to keep an open mind and ask if we’re doing the best we can with the current calendar, or is there a better solution out there?”
Degner said district officials are continuing to “study” the possibility of a four-day school week and would engage the community in conversations before moving forward. Degner said he wants to “validate” any concerns parents and community members might have about a four-day week, including child care. What are the challenges a four-day school week would present? Are they insurmountable? he asked.
Introducing a four-day week
Earlier this year when Degner introduced the idea of a four-day school week to the school board, he said it “has the potential to create a better outcome for our students.”
Degner showed the board two calendar examples based on the 2024-25 school year. The first calendar accounted for every Friday being a no-school day. The first day of school would be Aug. 12, and the last day of school would be June 27.
The second possible calendar accounted for every other Friday being a no-school day. In this model, school would begin Aug. 26 and the last day of school would be June 27.
For both calendars, the number of school days and staff work days would remain the same as it is now, Degner said. Continuing school through June also would give the district flexibility to include time off for more cultural holidays in the calendar.
Winter break would continue to be two weeks, and additional mini-breaks would be added throughout the year. Summer break would be most of July and the first week of August, which could lessen “summer slide” — the loss of achievements made during the school year — Degner said in March.
Child care providers, he said, are “optimistic” they would be able to provide full-day care on no-school days, Degner said at the time.
The current school calendar, which begins after Aug. 23 and ends around Memorial Day in May, is “based on the old agriculture calendar,” Degner said then. “It doesn’t serve our students’ best interest anymore.”
The state requires that schools begin no sooner than Aug. 23. Degner said he was in conversations with the Iowa Department of Education for a waiver to start earlier.
The four-day school week is gaining some traction with the Cardinal Community School District in southeast Iowa, which moved to a four-day week for the current school year.
No school on more holidays
In April 2021, the school board voted in favor of adding additional holidays to the school calendar, including the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Fitr and Jewish holy day Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur begins at sundown Sept. 24, 2023, and Iowa City schools will not have school Sept. 25, 2023, according to the school calendar. Eid al-Fitr begins at sundown April 9, 2024, and Iowa City schools will not have school April 10, 2024, according to the school calendar.
Winter break for is scheduled for Dec. 25, 2023 to Jan. 5, 2024.
The school board began recognizing more holidays after a student advocated for it.
Reem Kirja, who was an eighth-grader at Northwest Junior High School at the time of the vote in 2021, created a petition on change.org to raise awareness and support for no school on Eid for Iowa City schools. The petition received over 6,600 signatures.
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