CPS reverses on school year end date; district could have lost $65 million

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools students will have school on the day after Memorial Day, a reversal from the previously announced end date, May 24.

In an email to parents Friday, CPS Superintendent Peter Stiepleman said, if the district did not have school on Tuesday, May 28, it "would stand to lose $65 million."

"That would be the penalty for cutting our year short regardless of the fact that we would have fulfilled the required number of instructional hours," Stiepleman wrote.

Kimberly Christopher's son Joshua goes to Lange Middle School. She said the situation the district finds itself in could have been avoided.

"There were a couple days that they prematurely cut off. That made me furious. One day, they called school off at three or four o'clock the day before. That's ridiculous. That shouldn't happen," Christopher said.

Initially, the district sought to avoid having school on May 28 by adding time to what was scheduled to be an early release day on April 10. Despite making April 10 a full day, CPS still needs to have an early release day on May 28 to comply with state law, according to Stiepleman. 

"Looking back, we should have followed the adage 'measure twice, cut once.' We should have checked with DESE one more time before making our final decision," Stiepleman wrote.

Christopher echoed Stiepleman's sentiment.

"I definitely understand the reasoning, you know, we definitely need the money and funding for the schools. I understand that part. I feel like they should have checked in to everything before they sent out the email, if there was a possibility that it wasn't going to be the last day," Christopher said.

All academic work will be completed by May 24 and the district will excuse "any absences" on May 28.

"We realize you may have made plans based on the information we sent out earlier this week. We do not want to interfere with those plans and completely understand if your child is unable to attend," Stiepleman wrote.

Christopher said her children are likely to be among those absent.

"We plan on doing something, so I don't think my kids will be going the 28th," she said.

The district asked for the parents' forgiveness.

"We are thankful for your continued support and remain grateful for your grace in this situation as we endeavor to do what’s best for our students, staff, and the families in our community," Stiepleman wrote.

A revised calendar will be posted to the district's website on April 8.