Under the Dome

North Carolina families surveyed on state’s school calendar law

The beach stand looking south from the Johnny Mercer pier at Wrightsville Beach, NC on July 2, 2015 is crowded with thousands of vacationers. The school calendar law was passed with the support of the tourism industry, which was worried about how schools were shortening summer break.
The beach stand looking south from the Johnny Mercer pier at Wrightsville Beach, NC on July 2, 2015 is crowded with thousands of vacationers. The school calendar law was passed with the support of the tourism industry, which was worried about how schools were shortening summer break. cliddy@newsobserver.com

North Carolina families have until Sunday to let state legislative staffers know what they think about the school calendar law that sets when traditional public schools can start and end the school year.

The General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division was charged with studying “how limitations on school calendar flexibility” have affected school districts, school operations and students during the past 10 years. As part of the project, the Program Evaluation Division has partnered with the North Carolina PTA to conduct an online survey that asks questions about how the school calendar for school districts affects families.

The deadline for completing the anonymous survey, which can taken at http://bit.ly/2cUKlg6, is 5 p.m. Sunday.

The General Assembly passed the calendar law in 2004 at the urging of the tourism industry and some parents who were concerned how school districts were shortening summer break. Some school districts were starting traditional-calendar classes in the first week of August.

The law says schools can start no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and end date no later than the Friday closest to June 11. Charter schools and year-round schools are exempted from the law.

Tourism officials have pointed to studies showing starting school in late August produces as much as $1 billion each year in economic growth through increased tourism-related sales.

Ever since the law was passed, school districts have been trying to get it modified or eliminated. School officials have complained that the lack of flexibility leads to problems such as high school students having to wait until after winter break to take final exams.

The new survey asks a variety of questions, including:

▪ Do you prefer fewer or more breaks during the year?

▪ When do you prefer to take summer vacation?

▪ How important is it for you have fall exams before winter break?

▪ How important is it to have the option to choose a year-round school schedule?

▪ Should state law or local school districts determine the start date for schools?

▪ When do you think public schools in North Carolina should start? Choices range from the first week of August to after Labor Day.

Whether the Program Evaluation Division’s final report will lead to recommendations on changing the school calendar law remains to be seen.

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