Labor Day weekend is deemed to be the official end of summer, and one state senator doesn’t want to see school begin until after the holiday beginning with the 2017-18 school year.
And while Ohio Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, said she has support for her bill, Senate Bill 346, by those in her northern Ohio district, there are many that don’t want to see the state be involved with local school district calendars.
Manning, a former elementary school teacher, said she introduced her bill for a number of reasons, but most notably because of the heat.
“More schools are not air conditioned than are,” said Manning. “When kids come back in from outside, the whole afternoon is a waste. All I’m saying is let’s go after Labor Day.”
State law mandates students have 920 hours of instruction over the course of a school year, which a change was made in the 129th General Assembly to move away from a set number of days. House Bill 191 introduced the hours requirement and also included a caveat that school start after Labor Day. The Labor Day section was removed from the bill while in committee and approved by the House. That bill, however, was folded into Substitute House Bill 36 which was signed into law.
Damon Asbury, the director of legislative services for the Ohio School Boards Association, said the issue comes up periodically — the last time being in 2012 when school hours over days was adopted — disagrees with the proposed bill.
“It is the position of the association that the decision of school calendars and school hours are best left up to the local decision makers,” he said, adding districts already are required to have public hearings on their calendars. “No two school communities are the same, and lately it does seem like the school year is growing wider and wider as some schools are going earlier.”
But that’s part of Manning’s point, she said, especially with many school districts having open enrollment and public schools having to provide transportation for private schools.
Asbury, though, said a school calendar is “a very complex process, and one law in Columbus is not going to solve this.”
And while Manning says “we all need the same starting time” with multiple different start dates, Asbury says, “Let the people who are elected to run the local schools to make the best decision they can get from their community.”
Some Butler County school districts agree with Asbury that a district’s calendar needs to be in complete control at the local level.
“I see that as an erosion of local control because now we’re going to mandate something,” said Fairfield City Board of Education President Dan Hare. “The law provides school boards to adopt a district calender, so why would we want to erode or invade that ability?”
Hare understands the proposed bill has an opt out piece, which would require a resolution and public hearing, but mandating a uniform start time also prevents teachers adequate time to prepared for the state tests.
“That gives you more time for student instruction before they administer those state tests,” he said on the benefit of starting early.
Fairfield started in mid-August to accommodate its school construction projects, giving the district a few extra weeks in the summer to start demolition, Hare said. And coincidentally the district will start the 2017-18 school year after Labor Day also as an accommodation for the school building construction.
Lakota school spokeswoman Lauren Boettcher said she “can’t even imagine” starting school after this weekend. She said the district administration and board have yet to discuss Manning’s bill, but agrees with Hare that local district should have complete local control of its calendar. She said it allows for flexibility to change as needed without extra steps.
The current Lakota calendar “fits the needs” of the district, she said. “We’ve got a calendar that works for us and our parents and families,” she said.
Lakota’s start times have slowly moved earlier in August, and the Aug. 16 start date allows the district to start the second semester after the winter break, Boettcher said. That works well because students can have semester exams before a long winter break, and not have to cram for tests just after the New Year.
“Now we have a clean cut,” she said.
The Ohio General Assembly isn’t set to start after the November election, but Manning said there’s a chance special sessions could resume later this month or early October.
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