Parents want compromise on school calendar debate
Posted March 6, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Snow and ice over the past three weeks made a mess not only of area roads but also school calendars as districts piled up cancellation after cancellation.
The Wake County Public School System has already scheduled make-up days on a Saturday in March, on another Saturday in April and on April 3, which is Good Friday. The district still has at least one make-up day to schedule.
Pam Snyder, who has two children in local schools, said she and other parents are frustrated with the schedule changes because they eat into weekends.
"That's the only family time we get as it is," Snyder said Friday, an early-release day for Wake County schools that was extended to a full day of class because of the recent wintry weather.
"They're in school nine or 10 hours a day as it is, and then you're going to take the weekends from them too?" she said. "It just doesn't seem fair to me."
Rep. Rosa Gill, D-Wake, a former Wake County school board member, has co-sponsored legislation filed Thursday that would give school districts more flexibility as to when they start and end classes.
State law requires traditional-calendar schools open no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11.
House Bill 164 would allow districts statewide to open as early as Aug. 15 or the first day of class of a local community college.
"I think, if they go earlier, they can build in their snow days," Gill said of allowing districts to begin classes in mid-August.
The legislation isn't just linked to the weather, she said, noting that it would require first-semester exams to be held before winter break.
"I think parents would be much happier if their kids did not have to spend the Christmas holidays studying for an exam that they need to take and pass," she said.
Almost two dozen bills have been filed in the General Assembly already this year seeking waivers to or exemptions from the decade-old school calendar law. Twenty-five similar measures stalled in the legislature during the 2013-14 session because of opposition from tourism and other business interests.
The grassroots group Save Our Summers pushed for the school calendar law in 2004, and director Louise Lee said lawmakers have already granted flexibility to districts by counting hours of instruction instead of days in class.
"It's not like they're locked in," Lee said. "I think it's good to discuss it. I don't think it's good to say we're throwing out the entire calendar law because some restrictions are needed."
Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, who helped pass the 2004 law, said calendar change proposals won't even be heard in the Senate this year. As chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, he controls the flow of legislation in the chamber.
Snyder said her children will be missing the three make-up days Wake County schools will be holding on Saturdays and Good Friday, and she said she wants a compromise on the calendar dispute.
"They need to have some kind of flexibility to where they can make it work but not jeopardize the kids," she said.