Farmington approves plan to make up snow days, adds minutes to junior high and high school

District to seek early start day in August

FARMINGTON -- Farmington School District will use a calendar based on in-person instructional hours, and not days of instruction, to make up its five snow days in January.

Farmington School Board approved the revised calendar for 2023-24 during a special meeting Monday night. For now, Farmington's last day of school remains the same, Friday, May 24, before the Memorial Day holiday.

However, if school has to be canceled any more days because of weather, the district will have to use its built-in snow days at the end of the school year, May 28-June 3, Jon Laffoon, superintendent, told board members.

Laffoon said the revised calendar will be submitted to the Arkansas Department of Education. It took effect Tuesday.

The state requires students to attend school 178 days for a traditional calendar or 1,068 hours, about six hours per day or an average of 30 hours per week, under an alternate calendar. Farmington will use the alternate calendar for 2023-24, retroactive to the first of the school year.

The district's two elementary schools and middle school will not be affected by the change and will continue to have the same daily schedule for the rest of the year. That's because those students already receive 6.5 hours of instruction every day, said Joe McClung, assistant superintendent.

The junior high will start 5 minutes earlier each day at 7:55 a.m.

The high school will start school 10 minutes earlier each day and add 5 minutes to the end of the day, from 7:50 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.

The revised calendar does not affect bus routes.

After the meeting, Laffoon said the revised schedule is the best solution for Farmington to make up snow days because the district is only having to add minutes at the junior high and high school campuses. Other options would have been to go on school on Saturdays or to add days to the end of the year.

In other action, the board unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Laffoon to submit a request for an Act 1240 waiver for an early start date for the 2024-25 school year.

Arkansas law says the first day of school shall be on or after the Monday in which Aug. 19 falls. Act 1240 of 2015 allows districts to seek waivers of state laws and rules.

The resolution asks for a waiver to allow the district to start school during the week of Aug. 12.

Laffoon explained that Northwest Education Service Cooperative is applying for the waiver on behalf of its 17 school districts, but school districts also are individually applying for the waiver.

The district surveyed the community and staff about an early start date and results of this show that 56.1% of the community responses preferred a start date during the week of Aug. 19-23 and 43.9% preferred the early start date.

For staff, 50.7% preferred a start date during the week of Aug. 19-23 and 49.3% preferred an early start date.

The district received 506 total responses for the survey, 303 community members and 203 staff members.

The waiver request says an early start date would allow both semesters to be more evenly divided, give a greater assurance that school will end in late May and not extend into June and provide more days of instruction before spring testing resulting in students being better prepared for their tests.

The school year would remain the same but an early start date would give the school more flexibility with its calendar, the request says.

At the recommendation of Laffoon, the board also approved extending the contracts for assistant superintendents Joe McClung and Stephanie Pinkerton.

Laffoon said Pinkerton has done an outstanding job developing student services, safety planning and focusing on the district's new pre-K program.

Laffoon said McClung has done an outstanding job developing the district's testing pilots for the new statewide tests this spring, called ATLAS (Arkansas Teacher and Learning Assessment System), creating an aligned curriculum in grades kindergarten through eighth grade and helping building leaders and staff to focus on student learning.