Board of Education discusses 2022-23 school calendar

·3 min read
Cleveland County students exit a school bus on their way to school.
Cleveland County students exit a school bus on their way to school.

Cleveland County Board of Education members recently debated which of two potential calendars the school district should adopt for the 2022-23 year.

Both calendars would have school start on Aug. 29, have just under 180 days and include 10 annual leave days and 11 holidays.

"The big difference between the two drafts is the first draft has the first semester ending in January and the second draft has the first semester ending in December," said Jennifer Wampler, Cleveland County Schools assistant superintendent of operational and human services, who presented the calendars to the board.

Ending the first semester in December or January is a question of tradeoffs. Ending in December allows high school students to take end-of-course exams before leaving for winter break, alleviating concerns of learning loss.

It also better aligns schedules for students taking college courses while in high school. When the first semester ends in January, high school students enrolled in community college classes are stuck finishing first semester courses while the college's second semester has already started.

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High school students, particularly athletes, looking to graduate early so they can enroll in their university of choice in January are similarly effected.

But with such a late start to the school year, doing so would mean having a shorter first semester (79 days) and a longer second semester (100 days).

Ending the first semester in January would allow for more evenly balanced semesters, but at the cost of doing exams after the holiday break and conflicts with college schedules.

"This year is almost the worst-case scenario," said Stephen Fisher, schools superintendent. "Starting on (August) 29th is as late as you can start. It really puts the first semester in an academic bind for the structural integrity of the courses we would teach for first or second semester."

In the 18 years since the state legislature took control of school calendars away from school districts, education associations and school boards have repeatedly asked for the flexibility to start the fall semester earlier in August, allowing students to complete exams before Christmas break.

Under current law, school cannot start until the Monday closest to Aug. 26, which falls on a Friday this year.

Granting such flexibility would benefit students, but at the cost of potentially cutting into the profits of the state's multi-billion dollar summer tourism industry.

Support for flexibility has grown in recent years. Multiple bills restoring local calendar control have passed the state House of Representatives with bipartisan support, only to die in the state Senate.

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Cleveland County School Board member Ron Humphries wanted to know if the current law "has got any teeth in it."

"What if we just do what is best for our students in Cleveland County, exercise local control and provide a sound basic education like we are supposed to? Why don't we just do what we need to do," asked Humphries of Stephen Fisher.

The board may soon find out.

Students listen to instruction at Casar Elementary School Monday.
Students listen to instruction at Casar Elementary School Monday.

Rather than deciding between either calendar, the board voted unanimously on a resolution to again ask the General Assembly for flexibility in creating school calendars.

The board also instructed school district staff to redo the proposed calendars to better balance the length of the fall and spring semesters, even if it means shirking the mandated start date.

That calendar will be posted on the Cleveland County Schools website later in January, and up for discussion at the Feb. 14 school board meeting.

If the board decides to approve it, Fisher said they will not be alone. At least one other school board has already decided to start well ahead of the state mandated date.

Dustin George can be reached at 704-669-3337 or Dustin.George@ShelbyStar.com.

This article originally appeared on The Shelby Star: Cleveland County School calendar options up for discussion

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