Local News

Teachers push repeal of school-calendar law

Posted March 18, 2009


— Five years after the General Assembly passed a law prohibiting school districts from starting class before Aug. 25, some teachers want to give some scheduling flexibility back to schools.

Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, sponsored House Bill 593 at the request of several local teachers. They say starting school earlier would help improve student test scores.

Beach generic Groups: Early school starts erode summer vacation

"We're concerned about the school calendar law, especially dealing with exams," said Rita Rathbone, a teacher at Riverside High School in Durham. "It means that we don't get to give exams until after Christmas break."

Rathbone and her fellow teachers said the two-week break hurts student performance on exams because they start to forget some of the material they covered in class.

Starting school on the second Monday in August also could solve the problem of having to schedule snow makeup days during spring break, which happened this year.

Louise Lee formed the group Save Our Summers to lobby for the 2004 school-calendar law, and she said repealing it would be a bad idea.

"It's so much more than, 'We want a long vacation,'" Lee said. "Low-income families, for example, had students that had to have those jobs during the summer to help pay for college (or) to put food on tables."

The state tourism industry, which backed the school-calendar law in an effort to encourage family vacations in August, fears the new proposals will shorten the summer vacation season.

"We'll fight to keep their voices heard here," said Connie Wilson, a lobbyist for the tourism industry. "We believe it's important for families, for the economy and definitely important for our kids."

The proposed bill, which is in the House Education Committee, wouldn't affect year-round schools. A similar bill in the Senate would give power back to all school systems to set their own calendars.

"No one wants to take summer away," Rathbone said. "We're simply asking for the flexibility to start school a few days earlier – two weeks at most."


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  • tchr313 Mar 19, 2009

    Hmmmmm I've been teaching in NC since 98 and I've never heard of such a rule as punch in 2.5 hours and get paid 8.
    We have always been required to work 8-4, with a one hour lunch break or work 8-3 with no break.
    I take advantage of EVERY workday if I can!
    There is always, always, always work to do that can't get done while students are there!

  • NCTeacher Mar 19, 2009

    Can someone please find the rule for me that teachers only have to stay 2.5 hours on a workday? Because I want to show it to my principal and prove that I don't have to stay there until 4 like every other school employee.

    According to the rules where I work, a workday is the same length or longer as a regular student day. And you can believe that most of the teachers I work with use every minute of it wisely.

  • SS67 Mar 19, 2009

    "It's so much more than, 'We want a long vacation,'"
    That's exactly what was said.
    Special interest groups such as tourism have no business regulating education.
    Long summer vacations = stupid kids.

  • oldfirehorse Mar 19, 2009

    "lets look at the issue that way, not based on irrational feelings, memories, or fears." - Ok, I'm dropping all my irrational feelings, memories, and fears. Let's see, looking at that way, hmmmmm....NOPE, still not a good idea. Starting school a half month earlier doesn't appeal to most peoples rational thinking, and so the bill will be defeated. However, it is good to know that someone on here knows how irrational everyone else is.

  • NC Reader Mar 19, 2009

    "I feel I can add my two cents worth since I went to school under both systems. When I was in Middle school we were under the old system of starting school after Labor Day, and ending in June. We took exams after our two week break. I hated it, I didn't feel I could enjoy my vacation because of the up coming exams. When we returned to classes it all all review for two weeks, while we all adjusted back to the "school mode". When I was in High School they changed the school year so exams would be taken before school and "low" income families could save money on electric bills because the students would be in the air conditioned schools during the hottest month of the year. It was great, exams were completed before Christmas and we were out for the summer before Memorial Day."

    I agree. I did it under both systems as well. First semester exams should be over before winter break. It does no one a favor to take exams two weeks after a two-week break. That makes no logical sense.

  • dragnflygirl Mar 19, 2009

    As a high school teacher, I feel I need to correct some of the misconceptions that have been posted on this board. 1.There are only 3 teacher workdays that fall within the school year, the rest are before or after the school year. 2. Lets not forget that we are being held accountable for student scores. The student test scores affect student’s ability to graduate and the school’s funding. 3.For those who say, just stop block schedule, block schedule uses teachers to there greatest efficiency. Changing to a 7 period day would mean either larger classes or hiring more teachers (obviously more teaching is not an option now!). A 6 period barely gives students enough time to fit in all their graduation requirements in 4 years. An A/B schedule would mean 8 days of exams/EOC at the end of the year not counting retesting--still not a good solution. This is a reasonable request for the benefit of students lets look at the issue that way, not based on irrational feelings, memories, or fears.

  • oldfirehorse Mar 19, 2009

    "No one wants to take summer away," Rathbone said. "We're simply asking for the flexibility to start school a few days earlier – two weeks at most." - HUH? This is a teacher? I hope she doesn't teach math. Let's see, a "few days...two weeks at the most". A few days would make it about August 21, 22 something like that? Two weeks, hmmmmm... that would be August 11? Last time I checked, two weeks was about a half a month! So, teacher Rathbone, which is it you want, a few days or a half a month?

  • superman Mar 19, 2009

    I was a teacher for many years. We were there all day. You cannot force people to use the work day to do work-- but you can make sure they are there! I have been to different businesses and 5 or 6 people are standing around drinking coffee while their client or customer waits for help. Nothing is perfect. I could always use the work day. Making copies of tests, handouts, filing, make a new bulletin board. I could always find productive uses for my time. I think it best to just let the School Board decide the school calendar.

  • Dreamin of Disney World Mar 19, 2009

    Amen Maddiesmom...I commented on this earlier. But you said it perfectly. My youngest is now in charter school, (thank God), and they get out every Monday at 1:00pm. They may choose to take extracurricular such as guitar, chess, sports, art..etc. Or they can go home. DPS would probably consider this a waste of time.

  • maddiesmom972 Mar 19, 2009

    What parent with a child in public has not woken up to the fact that it is not about EDUCATION. It is about EOG test scores...the test scores that get teachers their bonuses and lets principals keep their jobs...it is not about our children. Two weeks will not make the first bit of difference...I love the new school calendar..it still lets our kids be kids and families be families - I know some really really good teachers who have said the only time they get to be teachers is the last two weeks of school after the EOG is done. I also know alot of teachers in our area who dont wont the school calendar to change. There must be some other befit that we the parents are not privy too...and that benefit is not what is in the best interest of parents or our childern. BUT LETS NOT FORGET THIS IS GOVERNMENT EDUCATION.