Early school start proposed for oft-flooded communities


Neighborhoods turn to islands during the annual flooding of the Red River in northwestern Minnesota.

That means big problems for everyone, including educators and students. The flooding can impact the school calendar, forcing teachers to keep students in the classroom into the summer to ensure they stay on schedule.

Sponsored by Rep. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley), HF1542 is designed to bring relief to school districts in communities that face such floods. The bill would allow districts to begin classes prior to Labor Day, as a countermeasure to the days they lose in the spring.

It was approved Feb. 9 by the House Education Reform Committee and sent to the House floor. It has no Senate companion.

Current statute does not permit schools to begin the academic year before Labor Day unless they meet specific requirements, such as undergoing an extensive construction project during the year that interferes with school time.

In a letter to legislators, Norman County West Superintendent Ollen Church wrote, “Our problem in the spring is, we simply can’t get our kids into school.” Through this bill, he hopes to start school a week before Labor Day, so the district has days in reserve to cancel school during the year due to flooding.

Before the vote, Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester) added, “At some point, this policy committee needs to acknowledge that local control is needed for every dang school district in this state to decide when they want to start their schools, before or after Labor Day.”