School administrators say a variety of factors influence school start dates, including standardized testing schedules, holiday dates and local summer events. As school boards work to develop calendars, they field opinions and feedback from parents, teachers and more.
Students in Urbana City Schools will start school on Sept. 11, a week after Labor Day. Urbana City Schools Superintendent Charles Thiel said that isn’t the district’s typical start date, and next year the school year will likely start earlier. The district is starting school late to allow construction on a new pre-k through eighth-grade building.
The district’s other option would have been to move into the new building during winter break, which Thiel said would be “a big undertaking.” The late start isn’t ideal, and he said he believes it will likely impact testing.
“We won’t have as much instructional time with students prior to the testing,” Thiel said. “We’ll be starting school at about the time that everyone else who starts at a traditional schedule will have their routines down … We’re not going to get into a routine (until around) October.”
Urbana isn’t the first Champaign County School to start late due to school construction. In 2016, West Liberty Salem Schools started late as crews finished up an addition on their high school.
This year, West Liberty-Salem will start school on Sept. 4.
Most students in the Springfield City School district will go back on Aug. 15. High school students in grades 10 through twelve will start on Aug. 16.
Students in Tecumseh Local Schools will start classes on Aug. 15.
School start dates have held steady for the past several years, Jay Smith, deputy director of legislative services at the Ohio School Board Association, said. Most school districts start the year around mid-August. Smith said people often say schools start early to get a head start on teaching to score better on standardized tests, but many school districts he hears from start mid-August so schools can complete the first semester before winter break.
“They’re trying to get through that first semester so that kids aren’t leaving for two weeks and then coming out and taking exams,” he said.
Two bills in the state legislature would mandate schools to start after Labor Day. Proponents say postponing school until after Labor Day would better supply the tourism industry with students for summer jobs. Smith said districts already seek out community feedback when they develop calendars, and local districts are best suited to identify the needs of their students.
“We just see this as another state mandate that seeks to take away local control and local authority from our local boards of education,” Smith said. “We just believe that there’s already plenty of flexibility.”
Staff writer Parker Perry and Jenna Lawson contributed to this article.