Groups fight to keep summer vacations long

Posted July 26, 2011 6:59 p.m. EDT
Updated August 4, 2011 10:20 a.m. EDT

— A North Carolina judge ruled Tuesday that a small school district in the western part of the state can start classes next week, despite challenges from a group that says shorter summers are bad for families.

The state Board of Education waived a law that requires a 10-week summer vacation for students in the state’s traditional-calendar schools so that Macon County schools can institute measures to improve student achievement. 

State Administrative Law Judge Joe Webster upheld that waiver Tuesday, refusing to grant a preliminary injunction to a group that’s challenging it.

The school system says the Aug. 4 start will allow them to run much-needed remediation programs in reading, for example.

Most schools around the state don’t resume classes until Aug. 25.

The group Save Our Summers argues that allowing an exception for one school district may cause a negative ripple effect across the state, even trickling down to the North Carolina coast, where business owners rely on summer tourism.

“All of our business comes from families from North Carolina and across the nation coming down here on vacation,” said Jesse Croteau, who works on Emerald Isle.

The tourism industry and groups like Save Our Summers urged lawmakers in 2004 to establish a statewide, standard school calendar that ensured a 10-week summer vacation.

Ronnie Watson, who owns an oceanfront campground in Emerald Isle, was part of that campaign.

“It’s very important for the tourism industry that we keep this school calendar bill intact,” he said.

He said he’s concerned that, in addition to the exception made in Macon County, legislators have also added 10 extra classroom days to the school calendar.

“Every little bit helps, and tourism is vital,” he said.

Croteau agreed.

“Shortening our season would kill our business,” he said.

Watson said that over the course of his numerous conversations with lawmakers, he’s confident the law will remain intact – for now.

Schools in Ashe, Avery and Madison counties are also resuming classes early in anticipation of losing school days to heavy snowfall as has happened in many northwest mountain communities in recent years.