School board approves later start date, new middle school name

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Public Schools’ Board of Education unanimously approved its 2020-2021 calendar Monday night, aligning with a house bill moving back the start date of schools across Missouri.

H.B. 161, signed by Governor Mike Parson this past legislative session, states that school districts cannot begin class more than 14 days prior to the first Monday of September. Currently, schools can start no sooner than 10 days before the first Monday in September. 

But the previous law had a commonly-used exemption, which allowed school districts to have an earlier first day if they held a public hearing for it. The new law eliminates that exemption. 

Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, sponsored a similar bill. Although his version did not pass, he said he’s “pleased” H.B. 161 made it to the governor’s desk.

“My wife works for the district, so she had mentioned several times — that school seems like it gets earlier and earlier every year,” he said.

Basye mentioned both tourism and agriculture as industries that would benefit from a later start date. 

“The Lake of the Ozarks area relies on a lot of that younger work force - high school kids - to help them out in their businesses,” he said. “When they’re back in school, that pretty much shuts their business down.”

In another action item, the board approved the name of the new middle school as John Warner Middle School. Warner was an SRO at all six middle schools and described as a “pioneer” of the D.A.R.E. program. Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones attended the meeting to announce his support of the new name.