State News

House panel approves earlier school calendar

Posted May 11, 2009

— Legislation that would let North Carolina schools start the academic year two weeks earlier each August has cleared a state House committee.

The House Commerce Committee on Monday voted 14-10 to recommend Bill 593 to the full House, where a vote is likely this week.

Education Bill would move school start dates up

The bill would allow public schools to open as early as Aug. 8. A 2004 law requires most schools to begin no earlier than Aug. 25 and end by June 10.

"What we are putting forward in this bill is the idea of flexibility to make the decision for when the school year should start," said Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham.

Education groups said earlier start dates would allow for exams before the Christmas vacation and could avoid the need to schedule inclement weather make-up days during spring break.

"It is a way of improving test scores, improving flexibility. We're only talking about two weeks," said Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Madison.

The tourism industry is fighting the change because it would cut into traditional summer vacations.

"Don't you think this whole bill is the wrong time because of travel and tourism being the second-most-important (industry) in our state and we're losing jobs, losing money," said Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank.

Attendance at state parks grew by nearly 500,000 after the 2004 school-calendar law was adopted, tourism officials said.

"If leaving the school calendar as it is results in another two to three weeks' employment for part-time summer employees, which allows them to put food on the table, I'm going to vote against this bill," said Rep. Cullie Tarleton, D-Watauga.

The measure faces a Thursday deadline to pass the House or face a challenge to be considered in the next two years.

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  • NC Reader May 12, 2009

    wrb -- The law doesn't mandate August 8 to June 10 as the school dates. Rather, it gives the local school boards the flexibility to schedule school within those dates. If the coastal counties want to schedule September 1 to June 10, with no spring break, they will be able to. Other counties may choose to operate August 8 to May 31.

    As for exams after Christmas, I did that way back in high school. Students and parents HATED it. Winter "break" was spent with students thinking about exams and even doing schoolwork. The change from an September-June schedule to an August-May schedule was rounded applauded by everyone. With the current schedule, my children don't get a true break over Christmas. They bring home study packets, because the semester isn't over. Then, after second semester exams, they only get about two days off before starting over. This has caused a lot of burned-out students, particularly in high school.

  • skinnyjenny99 May 12, 2009

    Why can't people understand that the amount a weeks in a summer vacation for students was not increased when the law was passed. That first summer was longer because we got out in May and went back at the end of August, but after that, it simply shifted summer two weeks - not longer, not shorter.

  • local observer May 12, 2009

    Here's the real story, parents tried in vain to get school boards to listen to them before the law was passed to no avail. They continued moving the start date back over and over. They, along with the tourism industry helped get the law passed. It doesn't matter WHEN the kids take their exams, they will either pass or not...Christmas break actually may be good, they are so excited before Christmas and then they return rested, and can focus on preparing for the EOG test. The best thing might be to end the EOG tests! With this law, the summer break begins mid June and ends in early August....even LESS than before. If they're going to pass the law, move the end date to June 1 not 10th!!!

  • NC Reader May 12, 2009

    As a parent, I am glad that the Legislature is considering giving the school boards more flexibility in setting their own calendars. The current calendar ties the boards' hands so that first semester cannot end until after Christmas vacation. It is ridiculous to have students take a long break, come back to school for a week or two, then take exams. They end up getting study packets during what should be a family break. If the coastal counties want their students to be out in August and in school through mid-June, they should be able to do that. However, they shouldn't dictate that schedule to the rest of the state. The mountain counties, for example, may want to get an early start, knowing that they will probably have a number of makeup snow days.

  • shep8851 May 12, 2009

    This is not so much about benefits/penalties for students on when school starts--its about local boards of education wanting their little bit of political power back.

  • squawk08 May 11, 2009

    I went through both systems. I grew up in the 80s and went back after labor day and got out around the 2nd week of June. In high school the calendar changed and we went back in early August and I graduated on May 28. Now I work for a school district and I can say that its really stupid to take 3 days away in December and move them to January, due to this starting no later than August 25. Of course the situations are different. If people want to travel, they will travel. Numbers were down for tourism last year due to $4 dollar gas prices and no one being to travel. Revenues will be down this year due to people getting laid off and money being tight everywhere. It should not be up to a particular tourism industry to decide the fate of our children. I say put this calendar change on a ballot and let the public decide.

  • Sweetheart24 May 11, 2009

    Being a teacher, even in a year-round school, moving the start date of school caused me to not be able to go on vacation with my whole family because I can't exactly take off the last week of school. I grew-up with the old calendar and there was nothing wrong with it. People from other states still come here to our beaches, so claiming that it will hurt tourism doesn't work. Besides, most of the people I know go out of state for the beach in the summer anyway. If anything, it cuts their tourism! That's just from my experience. I vote to change it back! I'd like to see my family a little more during my time off, too.

  • nandud May 11, 2009

    My daughter is a sophomore at Apex. Her opinion? She doesn't care when they start or when they end as long as exams are done by Christmas (she has homework during the break otherwise) and she doesn't lose her Spring Break to snow. So this bill takes care of that.

  • caeyla May 11, 2009

    I wonder if anyone here even has a kid in high school on the semester system. I have a daughter in high school, and it's not very sensible for them to have 2 weeks out, go back and spend a couple days in class, take midterms, and then switch to their 2nd semester classes. I'm glad they are fixing something that should not have been changed to start with.

    And time4 real, I wish they would change to year-round. We're not in the 1800s when families needed their kids home in the summer to work on the farm. I think having lots of smaller breaks throughout the year, rather than one long summer vacation, would be much more conducive to learning. As it is, too much time is spent having to review old material and getting kids readjusted to going to school again after summer break.

  • nandud May 11, 2009

    BTW, some of us single parents can't afford private school or staying home to school our children when we have to WORK to put food on the table. Quit being so close-minded.

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