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New law makes it harder for schools to start year early

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By AP/KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – School districts will have to jump through a few more hoops if they want to start school in mid-August next year.

At a ceremony in Branson on Monday, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder signed into law a measure that requires schools to begin their school year no sooner than 10 days before Labor Day.

But there is a big exception to the rule that districts could utilize. They can set an earlier date if school boards first hold a public meeting and vote to set the start date sooner. That standard must be met again each year a district opts for the earlier start.

In the just-completed school year, more than 90% of Missouri school districts started earlier than the new law stipulates, according to state figures.

Supporters of the change say seasonal student workers are vital to the state's tourism industry, and that students gain valuable experience in those summer jobs.

"Economic growth, of which tourism in Missouri is a major part, contributes greatly toward investments we are able to make," Kinder, who also is chairman of the Missouri Tourism Commission, said in a written statement.

The law does not take effect until Aug. 28, so it won't apply until the 2008-09 school year. If it went into effect immediately, or districts decide to comply anyway, they could not begin school this year any sooner than Aug. 24 without holding a public meeting.

Kinder signed the bill as acting governor while Gov. Matt Blunt is in France for a few days.

The measure also changes state policy on districts making up school days lost to bad weather. Under current law, schools that exceed their scheduled snow days must add up to an additional eight days to make up for missed classes.

After that, schools need to make up for only half the lost time.

The legislation requires all districts to include six days in their schedules to make up for bad weather if needed. If districts use those days up, they would have to make up half of the remaining days. But time off for hot weather is excluded.

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