Local News

House Approves Bill To Change School Calendar

Posted July 15, 2004

— The state House approved a bill Wednesday that will give students a longer summer vacation and eliminate 10 teacher workdays throughout the school year. The measure moves to the Senate, where it may face trouble.

Some schools in Wake County are on a modified calendar that starts at the end of July, with two-week fall and spring breaks. State Sen. Eric Reeves, whose daughter attends one of those schools, wants those schools exempt from any bill that adjusts the school calendar.

"This is part of our life, and we don't want to see this bill create a problem in how we are providing an education for our child," he said.

Reeves' amendment is just one of the obstacles the bill faces in the Senate. It is expected to go to the Senate Education Committee, where Wake County school officials will lobby to put the 10 teacher workdays back.

"Those days, we believe, are very important for our teachers to be able to receive the necessary training and staff development that they need for their career and to help the children," Harrison said.

If the bill makes it to Gov. Mike Easley's desk, it is going to face another challenge there. He told WRAL that he supports the idea of a longer vacation -- but not at the expense of the school year.

"It suits me fine to have a longer vacation at one period of time, rather than have it interspersed within the year," Easley said, "and I think that's something that I think is a policy decision that can be made. But to cut back days on the school year is something completely different, or to do it in such a way that doesn't give the locals, say, in Western North Carolina, with all the snow and ice, a chance to make up those days is certainly a consideration that I would look into."

Wake County officials may find sympathetic ears in the Senate. Senate leader Marc Basnight, who supports the bill, admits there are not enough votes or time to pass it in his chamber.

"That's why committees are structured as they are," Basnight said. "The review should occur there if it does. If it's something we elect not to do, you won't see it this year. We have not made that decision at all."

There is no word yet when the Senate Education Committee might meet to discuss the school calendar bill, but it would have to be soon. House and Senate leaders are hoping to pass a budget and adjourn by this weekend.

If the bill makes it to Gov. Mike Easley's desk, there is no guarantee he will sign it. On Wednesday, he said it depends on what ammendments are attached to the bill and how it affects the length of the school year.

"It suits me fine to have a longer vacation at one period of time rather than having it interspersed within the year," Easley said. "That's something, I think, is a policy decision that can be made. But to cut back days on the school years is something completely different."

Currently, North Carolina's 20 teacher workdays are more than the national average.

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