Can I Take My Surfboard to School, Mom?

I was trying to figure out what to blog about today and then this Tweet from Twitter user, LiveinRaleigh, came across my screen –

An earlier school start only seems to hurts NC tourism business (think beaches) -NC tourism brought in $16.9B last year (link to article referenced below)

Her Tweet linked to an article posted on local Raleigh CBS affiliate, WRAL that said the North Carolina House approved legislation today that would allow NC schools to start the academic year two weeks earlier then the current official start date of August 25th, which by the way was made into law back in 2004.

There. I now have my topic.

There’s controversy behind this. Educators believe the earlier start date allows for exams to be given prior to the Christmas holiday break as well as allows the opportunity to potentially avoid scheduling inclement weather make-up days during the much anticipated Spring vacation. Yet, as you can see in the quote above, NC tourism would be hurt if the schedule was returned back to what it was prior to 2004.

As a former educator in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and Massachusetts (and as a child growing up in Massachusetts), there is one thing I can say the people of Massachusetts have right – the way the DOE (Mass Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) schedules the traditional academic calendar is my preferred method and I’ll tell you why.

In Massachusetts, most schools begin their academic year the Tuesday before Labor Day and finish their year by mid-June (usually around the 15th) with a few long weekends in place (Labor Day, Columbus Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day) and three vacation weeks (Christmas/New Year’s, February vacation, and April vacation) in lieu of a “Spring Break” as is traditional in the south. BUT, the best part – the DOE always tacks on 5 days at the end of the school year as “inclement weather days” to be made up as needed. See this link for an example of a traditional calendar.

Most academic year’s this schedule works out fabulously. The kids don’t like being in school after June 15th if it’s needed but they understand that they have to make up “snow days” too. Rarely…and I mean RARELY is it ever necessary to take away a teacher professional development day, a day during a scheduled school break, or even a Saturday due to too many snow days in one year. Unfortunately, as I write this, this particular academic year was hard on Massachusetts schools thanks to the pounding of Old Man Winter and as such, they actually had to make up one (or two?) snow days on a Saturday.

What else I like about this schedule, the Department of Tourism still gets its vast amount of tourists from mid-June through August. That’s a big chunk of time translating into a big chunk of dollars for the state tourism industry, which in turn, also translates into tax dollars which also in turn in a small amount (in a perfect world) should dip back into the schools.
Bourne Bridge, July 2006

Now as a former educator, even I admit that long periods of time without academic instruction can sometimes hinder a child’s ability to recall information from the previous year. At the same time, however, two things – (1) kids need to just be kids and summer allows them to do that and (2) why should it be left up to the teachers? Why can’t the parents, or better yet, the students themselves find educational things to do over the summer (that can also be fun) to keep their minds stimulated? Why is it always left up to the schools? But, that’s for another debate and another post.

The bottom line, in my humble opinion, the NC Legislature gets it wrong every time. Sure start the kids early but still don’t build in inclement weather make-up days that don’t take up a teacher professional day or scheduled during a school break? How is that going to help educators…or students for that matter?

If the Senate passes the same measure and the Bill goes on to be signed and passes, the kids will be taking their surfboards to school and that’s really NOT going to help the teachers or the students, now will it?

Just my humble opinion. WHEW! Glad I got that out.


Lisa πŸ™‚


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