Lincoln schools to seek early start date in August

With snow days, last day of school now is May 24

LINCOLN -- Lincoln students may start school a week earlier in August than the law allows.

The school board on Jan. 23 unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the district 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, not earlier than Aug. 14 or later than Aug. 26. For the 2024-25 school year, Aug. 19 falls on a Monday. Act 1240 of 2015 allows districts to seek waivers of state laws and rules.

The resolution says an early start date during the week of Aug. 12 would provide more instructional days prior to state testing in the spring and would balance the required days per semester so that first-semester exams are taken before Christmas break.

Lincoln's six snow days in January are another reason to request an early start date, Superintendent Mary Ann Spears told board members.

The district is asking staff and parents to fill out a survey about the proposal, one of the requirements for a waiver request, so that the board can make an "informed" decision about the start of school next year.

Spears said NWA Education Service Cooperative is going to file the Act 1240 waiver for an early start on behalf of all its school districts but each school board must first pass its own resolution. If the Arkansas State Board approves the waiver request, each district then could make a decision on whether to use the waiver or not.

Lincoln is going to make up its six snow days by adding four of the days to the end of school year. The 2023-24 school calendar shows May 17 as the last day of school with May 21-24 as inclement weather makeup days.

Spears said she is going to talk to her staff about the other two days. It's possible Lincoln will use Mondays to make up those days, she said. Lincoln cannot add minutes to its school days to make up the missed instruction time because the days are already longer with a four-day school calendar, she added.

Ideally, school should get out each year before the Memorial Day weekend, Spears told board members.

"You get past mid-May and it's hard to keep (students) reined in," she said.