N.C. Rep. Guice introduces bill to modify school calendar

Published 1:17 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2009

N.C. Rep. David Guice has introduced a bill that would exempt Polk, Henderson and Transylvania counties from rules establishing the current school calendar.

School officials have in the past raised concerns about the current calendar, noting that it does not allow students to complete exams prior to Christmas holidays and limits dual enrollment opportunities with community colleges. They have said they would prefer to see students start school early enough so they can complete the first semester and exams prior to going on an extended winter break.

The current school calendar does not allow schools to start prior to August 25. Guice&squo;s bill stated that schools in the three counties in his district would start no earlier than the second Monday in August and end 42 weeks later.

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&dquo;Prior to the beginning of this session I sat down with educational leaders throughout District 113 to discuss issues and concerns facing our schools on a daily basis,&dquo; said Guice, who was elected last November. &dquo;There were many concerns expressed by administrators and teachers but a clear and consistent issue was that of the school calendar.&bsp; This is definitely an issue in our region and for anyone to ignore that is simply a show of disregard for the people&squo;s concerns.&dquo;

Guice says the three superintendents in his district support the bill. But Guice has not received support from other legislators in the region, including N.C. Rep. Carolyn Justus and N.C. Senator Tom Apodaca.

Apodaca called Guice&squo;s bill a &dquo;freshman mistake,&dquo; considering that Guice did not contact Apodaca or Justus prior to submitting the bill. Apodaca was the lead sponsor of a 2004 bill that set the school start date at August 25. The &dquo;Save Our Summers&dquo; bill was passed after parents and business owners objected to school starting in early August,&bsp; disrupting the traditional summer season.

Apodaca says a school start date in early August impinges on summer employment and summer camp opportunities for students. Business owners have said they do not have students available for the full summer retail season if students have to return to school in early August.

Guice says he understands concerns about how an earlier start date impacts businesses and camps. He says his bill was not a &dquo;freshman mistake,&dquo; and he has the experience needed to faciliate a discussion on the issue.

Over the past weekend, Guice says he communicated with economic development directors in Polk, Henderson and Transylvania counties, asking them to help &dquo;faciliate a conversation with all stakeholders in the issue of locally based school calendar flexibility, to include business leaders, camp leaders, education leaders, parents and students.&dquo;

Guice said he hopes to set up a meeting in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, his bill has been referred to the committee on education. It&squo;s unclear if it will be considered by the N.C. House or Senate. Other bills relating to the school calendar also have been submitted, but Apodaca says none of them will be adopted. He says Senate leaders oppose the bills and likely will block them from moving forward.