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With winter whittling away at school days, school districts seek more flexible calendars

January 12, 2019 GMT

We’re getting into the time of year when winter weather during the week leads to makeup days. Timing those could mean losing vacation, even school on Saturdays.

That’s because school calendars are strictly defined by state law. School cannot start before the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and it must end no later than the Friday closest to June 11.

School systems are seeking more flexibility and the Franklin County Board of Education is the latest to ask lawmakers to change the law.

Back to school in early January means review time for teachers at Franklinton High School.

“Oh yes. I mean we have to teach a whole bunch of stuff,” said Erin Lynch, a Franklinton teacher.

That’s because high school students in North Carolina get a winter break before the end of the first semester.

“We are talking about the end of August all the way to the beginning of January,” a teacher said.

The law on when summer can end pushes exams into the new year. It allows local districts very little control of weather makeup dates.

Franklin County would love to see that changed.

“Do you ever hear from a parent saying, ‘I like it the way it is?’ No. I have never had a parent tell me that the calendar we are operating under makes sense to them,” said Franklin County Superintendent Rhonda Schuhler.

And that’s why the Franklin County Board of Education has approved a resolution supporting local control of school calendars.

They are among about a dozen school districts to make this move for the new legislative session.

“We are hoping that we will get some movement at the state level ... and we will be granted flexibility that we haven’t had in quite some time,” Schuhler said.

Louise Lee is one of the people responsible for the current calendar. She is the leader of a grass roots movement called “Save Our summers” which successfully lobbied the General Assembly to pass the law in 2004. She says August is important for family vacations and summer jobs for students. She wants to see the time preserved.

“They are saying local control is the issue and we want it back, but many of them are open about (saying), ‘We want to start school earlier,’” Lee said.

The Franklin Board of County Commissioners also approved a resolution about school calendar flexibility. It passed with a unanimous vote.