Every now and again an idea comes around that makes so much simple common sense you wonder why anyone would argue against it.
Such is the case with Jackson County Schools’ push for local control of the school calendar, as in when to start and end the school year.
On Feb. 26 JCPS Superintendent Kim Elliott read a “Resolution supporting local control of school calendars” at the Board of Education meeting. Board members approved it unanimously.
Fight over control of the calendar goes back to 2004, when the state legislature enacted a law mandating uniformity across the state. The legislation was pushed by the state’s tourism industry, which was concerned about shorter summers cutting into family vacation time and thus tourism profits.
We have no quarrel with the tourism industry, which is a vital source of local jobs and tax income. But we feel tourism and schools can coexist without the schools getting the short end of the stick when it comes to drawing up their own calendars.
Currently, the state requires schools to start on the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11.
The current mandate handcuffs local decisions, and often means that high schools may not complete the first semester until mid to late January, which could require high school students to take first semester exams after the winter break. That essentially means a lot of re-learning is required after the holiday break. It’s a setup than can negatively impact test scores.
The current calendar also doesn’t line up with community college schedules, making it harder for high school students to take courses at those institutions.
Those are good arguments against the current conformity. For the best reason, look to the skies.
North Carolina is a big state. It has a host of climates and microclimates. The geography varies; here in the mountains snow is not an uncommon event. Down on the coast hurricanes are an increasingly common event.
Needless to say, if a school system is facing 10 inches of snow or 10 feet of water, weather events are going to play havoc on the school schedule.
Flexibility is needed. It’s just common sense.
It remains to be seen if common sense will prevail in Raleigh.