Our kids are out of school … again

Our four daughters were sleeping last Monday when they should have been getting ready for school.

Or so I thought. It was Day 1 of their weeklong Thanksgiving break, my wife reminded me.

Don’t they get an entire week off for Christmas? I asked.


And for Spring Break?

Mmhm, in March.

And that doesn’t count snow days, or other random days. Over three weeks off in a five-month stretch is more than I get at my job. Plus, the girls are on a four-day school schedule and don’t attend on Fridays.

Doing the math had me thinking. How many days off can they have? And what are Idaho’s requirements for being in school?

It depends. Hour requirements for Idaho’s roughly 312,000 public K-12 students are etched into state law. Age plays a part. Idaho requires 450 instruction hours for part-time kindergarten students, 810 hours for first- through third-grade students, 900 hours for fourth- through eighth-graders and 990 hours for ninth- through 12th-grade students.

Schools are supposed to keep these minimum requirements in mind when they squeeze in vacation days and in-service days, or drop Fridays from the calendar, as many have done over the years.

It’s hard to compare the numbers nationally. Some states shape instruction requirements on the number of school days, not classroom hours. Some even have requirements for both.

Still, past comparisons put Idaho at the lower end of the spectrum for the amount of hours a student spends in front of a teacher. A 2014 Education Commission of the States report revealed that Idaho’s requirements are pretty light:

  • Thirty-six states use classroom hours as a yardstick.
  • Nine require fewer kindergarten hours than Idaho does.
  • Four have more lenient requirements for 12th-graders.

And rowdy winter weather can put the skids on Idaho’s already lax time requirements. Rewind to the 2016-2017 school year, when hundreds of school days melted away after snowstorms pelted the state for weeks. Districts and charters made up less than a quarter of days lost.

Who knows what this winter will bring. With Christmas around the corner, my wife and I have learned to be ready. Break out some board games, prep the sleds and let’s be real: be prepared to loosen up on your kids’ screen time, at least a little. And be ready to do some learning at home.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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