Local News

Teachers push repeal of school-calendar law

Posted March 18, 2009 6:36 p.m. EDT
Updated March 18, 2009 6:56 p.m. EDT

Education

— 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.

"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."