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Time for a closer look at school calendar flexibility

It’s a statewide issue that may very well come to a head in 2019, and it pits economics against education.

On the one hand, school systems throughout the state are calling for the return of local control over the school calendar, and they’re not alone. A coalition called L.O.C.A.L (Let Our Calendar Authority be Local) is pushing for calendar reform with the backing of the John Locke Foundation, the NC Association of County Commissioners, the NC Association of Educators, the NC School Board Association, the NC Justice Center, the NC PTA, the NC Association of School Administrators FreedomWorks NC and Professional Educators of North Carolina.

“A top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to public school calendar design has had several negative impacts on North Carolina public schools, school districts, and students,” the coalition website states.

Among those impacts are the administration of End of Course exams after winter break, misalignment between K-12 and community college calendars and dramatic summer learning loss among students of all ages.

In the other corner, the N.C. Travel Industry Association makes a case for maintaining the current calendar law based on the potential impact of reduced tourism during the summer months. Among the organizations represented by that association are those that speak on behalf of some of our greatest state treasures — The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, Battleship North Carolina and Chimney Rock Park.

“Erosion of the current summer calendar will hurt the state’s tourism economy (which supports 218,000 North Carolina jobs), give fewer economic opportunities to students and less time provided for what matters most — family,” the NCTIA site states.

A 2017 report to the N.C. General Assembly prepared by the legislature’s Program Evaluation Division probably puts it best:

“Opinions differ on when North Carolina public schools should start and end the school year, and no modification to the State’s school calendar law satisfies multiple competing interests,” the report states. “The disagreement among stakeholders regarding when North Carolina should start and end the school year cannot be reconciled.”

And there you have it, right there in black and white. There is no solution to this issue that will satisfy everyone. Unfortunately, this is an issue the state can’t leave unreconciled. Eventually, legislators are going to have to make a choice: do we do what’s best for the summer tourism economy or do we do what’s best for the education of the children?

For a look at both sides of the issue, visit nctia.travel and www.nclocalcalendars.net. To keep track of bills being filed in the N.C. General Assembly, visit www.ncleg.gov.