Sen. Easts school calendar bill is common sense legislation

First Posted: 3/15/2009

Last week State Sen. Don East introduced a bill that would give North Carolina public school systems more flexibility in scheduling their school calendars.
The law now forces all public school systems in the state to begin school no earlier than Aug. 25, and end by June 10. Mount Airy School Superintendent Darrin Hartness even went so far as to suggest that calendar was put in place years ago to, at least in part, service theme parks such as Carowinds and other tourist-related entities.
That would certainly seem a reasonable assumption, and one that has been repeated in a number of states as large theme parks and other such operations have opened over the years, relying on school kids for a work force.
The problem with that, quite simply, is that it puts the need for cheap, young labor ahead of educational needs of the states youths. And, it keeps a decision that should be made locally in Raleigh, with folks who really have no understanding what might be needed in individual communities across the state.
No doubt there should be some oversight from the state level we dont want school systems starting at the end of July but leaving the school systems with the options of beginning, say, from middle to late August, or ending from early to mid June, would be ideal. As Surry County School Supt. Ashley Hinson said last week, that offers school systems a way to better coordinate their schedules with that of local community colleges.
It also allows school systems to take into account local events, such as the Autumn Leaves Festival, which make commuting through some parts of Mount Airy rather difficult in the days leading up to that event, not to mention the fact that many of our local residents teachers and students parents included are involved in those activities. If schools could begin earlier, or stay in session longer, that would allow for a day or two off around such large events.
School systems already have a difficult enough time trying to keep up with state and federal testing requirements, unfunded mandate after unfunded mandate. At they very least, our local schools should maintain control over their calendar and being able to work the best schedule for their students and community.
We hope Sen. East will push hard on this bill, and that other legislators will have the good sense to get it to the floor and approve the measure.

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