School board moves to let superintendent, committee create new early start calendar

Published 10:24 am Monday, March 7, 2022

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The Stanly County Board of Education during its March 1 meeting approved that Superintendent Jarrod Dennis and the district’s calendar committee draft an early start calendar which will be presented before the board next month.

To help show what it could look like to begin the year earlier than usual, Dennis presented the board with an early start draft calendar.

The school year would begin on or around Aug. 10, about two weeks earlier than usual, and the students would conclude the first semester, including exams, around Dec. 20, just before the start of the winter holiday. The school year, including high school graduations, would conclude before the end of May, at least a week earlier than usual.

The early calendar would provide many benefits including giving students who graduate after the first semester enough time to enroll in a community college in January and allowing students to enjoy the holiday break without having to worry about taking exams once they return.

“We’re trying to address learning loss in our county and we’re trying to do the best that we can,” board chairwoman Glenda Gibson said about the need to start the school year earlier.

The move comes after the board last month approved a resolution requesting the N.C. General Assembly amend its school calendar law to provide local school boards with more flexibility when it comes to determining their own start and end days.

In 2004, the General Assembly passed a school calendar law mandating the opening date for students should be no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26, and the closing date for students should be no later than the Friday closest to June 11. The reason for the law was to prolong tourism in districts along the coast.

Due to this law, the 2022-2023 school year will not begin until Aug. 29, which is the latest possible start date. Students began the current school year Aug. 23. As a result, high school students like usual have to wait until after winter break, which begins Dec. 21, to take exams.

Gibson was aware of several surrounding school districts which are also drafting early start calendars as a way to apply pressure on the state legislature to make a change.

“I’m hoping that if we get a good number of surrounding counties that are saying, ‘we did a resolution and now we’re going to follow it up with an early start calendar,’ then that falls into your court, to the legislature,” she said.

The plan is for Dennis to present the proposed early start calendar to the board for approval during its April meeting.

Board member Anthony Graves said the later start period for schools has been a “major problem” for districts across the state since the law was first approved almost two decades ago.

“This is one thing that we can do that will impact every single student in a positive way in Stanly County Schools,” Graves said.

He said once the early calendar gets approved next month, he encourages people to contact their state representatives to let them know that a change to the statewide calendar law is needed.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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