It seems after the Fourth of July, the question asked most is: “When does school start?”

Years ago, the start dates were toward the end of August and early September. Thanks to a slue of new standards and regulations from the Alabama State Department of Education, it’s now at the beginning of August – a time many feel is too soon.

When The Reporter asked, “When do you think the school year should begin?” Readers voted:

57.0% – After Labor Day.

35.5% – Mid to late August.

5.9% – It’s fine the way it is.

1.6% – It doesn’t matter.

On The Reporter’s Facebook, many readers took their votes one step further and commented on the matter.

“After Labor Day! August is way too early! Should end last of May! August is very hot, and awful for kids on bus.” – Donna Gallman Wesson

“Ours started (a million years ago) around the beginning of Sept/ very end of August … it was not until my senior year of high school that school start time was at the middle of August.” – Laura Allen Parker

“It’s fine the way it is. The school year is broken up by fall break, Christmas break and spring break. 10wks for summer is plenty.” – April Johnson

Boaz City Schools Superintendent Todd Haynie said he’s not opposed to pushing back the start date, but guidelines in place would make it difficult.

“The Alabama State Department of Education requires that our students receive 180 instructional days in the school calendar,” he said. “In order for us to meet those guidelines and also allow for other breaks in the school year, school systems have to make a decision as to whether to begin early in August or finish later in June.”

The way current start dates are decided involves a number of steps, Haynie said.

“Our school district sent out a survey to our stakeholders to get feedback on what they wanted included in our upcoming school calendar,” Haynie said. “We had a calendar committee made up of school administrators, teachers and parents who reviewed the feedback, along with the guidelines provided by the state. We also took calendars from surrounding school systems into account to try to align ourselves as closely as possible due to possibly sharing facilities or services for our students. This group worked hard to create multiple versions of school calendars, which were then voted on by our stakeholders.”

Some national studies have shown students perform better when they can sleep longer and start their day at school later, but what would happen if students started later in the year? That’s something we may never know. While Haynie said it’s not impossible to push the starting date back, it would take more than the snap of a finger.

“Creating a functional school calendar is much more difficult than a lot of people realize,” Haynie said. “There are a lot of variables that have to be considered when building it. Not only do you have to take into account the state guidelines when building the calendar, but also parent/community input, other neighboring school districts and our local community college. It may be possible for the start date to be moved back, but it would take a number of concessions on expectations for breaks throughout the school year, as well as close coordination of calendars between school districts and community colleges.”

When to start the new school year and what time classes should begin are each debatable topics that should be addressed. If many parents believe in a change for the betterment of their children, maybe it’s time the state’s leaders start listening.

Our View On the Issue is an opinion of The Reporter’s editorial board that includes Publisher Kim Patterson and Managing Editor Taylor Beck.

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