Board pushes start date back to Aug. 19 in nod to legislator
By Bayne Hughes, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
At the request of a high-ranking state legislator, the Lawrence County school board voted Tuesday to push the start of the 2010-11 school year back eight class days.
But superintendents of neighboring school systems said Wednesday they do not plan to follow Lawrence County’s lead.
Lawrence County will start Aug. 19, instead of Aug. 9 as planned.
Lawrence Superintendent Heath Grimes recommended a new calendar that eliminates four of the five days from the fall break. It also adds four school days to the end of the school year, stretching classes to June 3.
Grimes estimated Wednesday the move could save his school system about $24,000 in utility costs.
State Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, chairman of the House Education, Finance and Appropriations committee, sent an e-mail June 24 to selected superintendents asking them to consider delaying the start of school because of the Gulf oil disaster’s impact on the state’s tax revenues.
Lindsey writes that he wants to push the school year back two weeks so the public education budget can benefit from a $260 million increase in revenue from the travel and tourism industry because there would be time for more vacations in August.
Decatur Superintendent Sam Houston called Lindsey’s use of the oil disaster to promote the tourism industry “pure exploitation of a very tragic situation.”
Lindsey and the tourism industry have been trying for at least five years to pass a state law that mandates the school year start later in the summer.
Hartselle Superintendent Mike Reed and Limestone County Superintendent Barry Carroll said it’s too late to change their school calendars. Morgan County Superintendent Bob Balch said he wasn’t aware of the letter, but would forward it to his school board if he receives a request from Lindsey.
All four school systems do not have a weeklong fall break to eliminate as Lawrence County did.
Carroll, Reed and Houston favor keeping the school calendar as a local decision. Most local school boards form calendar committees and let school system employees vote on multiple calendar options.
Houston said he doesn’t see how changing the start and finish dates of the school year would generate more tax revenues. He said holding a fall break generates revenues at a time when tourism is usually slow.
“This whole thing is being push by folks in industry who want the cheap labor in the summer months,” Houston said.
Carroll and Houston said they don’t see the utility savings either because June can be as hot as August. Grimes said his saving estimate comes from looking at the starting and ending months of the school year.
“June was one of the hottest on record,” Carroll said. “I’ve seen no data that show we would save that kind of money.”
Grimes said many educators like the fall break because it gives them a mid-semester break, but there’s also the negative that the break comes just as everyone is getting into a routine.
Houston said one reason he starts the school year on Aug. 9 is to get as many instructional days as possible in before spring standardized testing begins. He said most prefer to end the school year before Memorial Day.
Lindsey said in his letter that he will try again next year to pass legislation setting a state-mandated start day for the 2011-12 school year.
2010-11 Lawrence County School Calendar (7 Period)
Late Start/Institute Labor Day
First 9 Weeks Begins
Labor Day Holiday
Teacher Institute / Faculty Meeting
Professional Development Day
First 9 Weeks Ends (44 days)
Second 9 Weeks Begins
Last Day before Christmas Break
December 22-January 2
Begin School after Christmas
Second 9 Weeks Ends (46 days)
Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
Third 9 Weeks Begins
Teacher In-service/Flex Day
February 28-March 4
Third 9 Weeks Ends (43 days)
Fourth 9 Weeks Begins
March 21-April 1
SAT & ARMT Window
May 31-June 3
Fourth 9 Weeks Ends (47 days)
1st 9 Weeks
August 16 - October 22
2nd 9 Weeks
October 26 - January 18
3rd 9 Weeks
January 18 - March 18
4th 9 Weeks
March 21 - June 2