School calendar debates heat up again in NC

Posted April 4, 2013
Updated April 5, 2013

— A growing number of North Carolina school districts are trying to get around state regulations on setting instructional calendars.

Since 2004, state law has dictated the annual calendar to prevent schools from starting too early in August. For 2013-14, the earliest traditional-calendar public schools can open is Aug. 26, and classes must end no later than the Friday closest to June 11.

The State Board of Education has already granted waivers to a dozen districts in western North Carolina, allowing them to open a week earlier so they can build snow make-up days into their calendars.

But lawmakers representing dozens of other districts have filed for waivers as well. Some of the bills, which all sit in House committees, simply ask for the date restrictions to be scrapped for particular districts, while others say districts want to align their calendars with local community colleges for high school students.

"I believe local school districts and boards of education should have flexibility to determine when school starts and when it would end," State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said Thursday. "There are different needs across the state, and that flexibility should be given to local school boards."

Louise Lee, who heads up the group Save our Summers that lobbied for the school calendar law nearly a decade ago, said the reasons for creating the law still exist.

Outer Banks beach Advocates say summer break important to families, economy

"Families moving into North Carolina, especially military families, were moving in the fall, late August, only to find their students missed the first two weeks of school," Lee said. "Plus, just the family time in the summer (is important)."

A late August start to school also benefits coastal communities and the economy, according to the North Carolina Travel and Tourism Coalition. The group, which supports the calendar law, says the extra weeks of summer vacation produce as much as $1 billion a year in tourism-related sales.

Lee said local control of school calendars should rest with parents, students and teachers, not with school boards.

"They were abusing that local control, and when they’re trying to get that back, we remember," she said. "They were ignoring the pleas of grassroots, not having consistent starting dates year to year and not listening to families."


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Sherlock Apr 8, 2013

    The kids are ALWAYS out of school. They rarely go a month without a day or more out plus the early releases. I do not see how they learn anything. Of course, going by some of the test scores, they really don't. This is so true, but in some places the that is all they teach is the test and then some teacher take that for them or change the grade.. But they are out to much. 2 wks summer, 2 weeks at Christmas that is all they need.

  • Sherlock Apr 8, 2013

    Easy to fix the calendar just have school all year long, just like a real job,

  • geosol Apr 5, 2013

    Yes, we need the REPUBLICAN party to use BIG GOVERNMENT to tell us all what to do once again, right wingers?

  • apexdad2000 Apr 5, 2013

    i don't understand why people complain about the state wanting to have a uniform statewide calendar -- just like there is a uniform curriculum. some school districts pay no attention to families wanting time together and for kids to do camps, etc.

  • teachnow Apr 5, 2013

    Per state law, students cannot start school until August 25 and must end by June 10. Since teachers are 10 month employees, they must be out for a full two months. Students also must attend school 180 days or there is an hour amount, and I cannot remember what it is, but over 1000 hours they must attend. These hours do not include time for lunch, changing classes or I think recess. It is a strange formula to figure out.

  • corey3rd2 Apr 5, 2013

    Guess as soon as you get out of school, you can't appreciate a summer.

  • hp277 Apr 5, 2013

    Coastal realtors shouldn't be driving the school calendar - locally elected school boards should be.

    Summer is no longer under this law - it just shifted to match the highest rental rates at the beach. School should start early enough in August for final exams to happen before the Christmas break. That way, school could be out for the summer by the end of May.

  • wakemom Apr 5, 2013

    It is incredible to think we have a law in place that dictates when school starts and ends, with the primary purpose being to increase the amount of time available for folks to go to the beach. And then we wonder why are falling behind in education...

    I agree!!

  • no more - no less Apr 5, 2013

    All of this could be avoided if the school calendar was established as: start date - Tuesday after Labor Day and end date - Friday before Memorial Day.

  • SMAPAEA Apr 5, 2013

    I remember starting after labor day...and being done in early June...this is silly.