FILE - Winter school bus snow storm

After lawmakers accidentally removed the five-hour minimum for a school day in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation to restore it while still allowing schools more flexibility than before.

The bill Pritzker signed Friday will allow apprenticeships, dual-credit, career development and blended learning days to count toward a student’s required attendance total.

“Illinois students will continue to have access to important career-connected learning opportunities both in and outside of the classroom,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala said in a news release, adding that the exceptions mark a negotiated agreement between the state and others looking for accountability and flexibility.

“It really does move the needle back to where it was previously,” said Mary Reynolds, executive director of innovation and secondary transformation at ISBE. The new law, she said, will also consider valuable work-life experience like apprenticeships to count toward that total instruction time.

“It recognizes those innovative and alternative ways of students learning,” she said.

The legislation also expanded the e-learning pilot program statewide, something Reynolds said will be valuable to rural schools that typically experience more school cancelations because of snow days.

“This really allows for schools to continue that education uninterrupted regardless of what the weather is doing outside,” she said.

Three schools were previously participating in the program and will conduct a call with officials from other schools on June 18.

Teachers unions lobbied lawmakers to reinstate the five-hour minimum. The law also allows school districts to use two of the 176 instructional calendar days for parent-teacher conferences.

The law will be in effect for the coming school year.

Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.