Published Online: August 11, 2004
Published in Print: August 11, 2004, as State Journal

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Summertime Blues

North Carolina families will be all but guaranteed that school won’t interfere with their summer vacation plans if Gov. Michael F. Easley signs a bill that seeks to put new limits on the school calendar.

The bill, passed last month by the legislature, responds to the wishes of some parents who wanted a longer summer, as well as the tourism industry, which has pushed for extended summer breaks to boost profits and ensure the availability of student workers.

Beginning with the 2005-06 school year, districts across the state would not be able to call students back to school until Aug. 26, or ring in the summer break until after June 10. Most North Carolina districts start school much earlier, many in late July.

Some North Carolina educators worry that the restrictions on school starting and ending dates—and the reduction in teacher workdays required to pay for the changes—could undermine efforts to raise academic standards and improve professional development.

So far, that argument has lost out to the message pushed by a volunteer group that won the backing by tourism and realty companies that played on parents’ nostalgic notions of the lazy, hazy days of summers past.

Save Our Summers-North Carolina, a parent group, was established earlier this year with the aim of preventing the school year from encroaching too much on summer vacation.

"Many [supporters of the bill] saw chances for educational activities outside of a classroom and opportunities for coveted family time dwindling away," Louise C. Lee, a founder of Save Our Summers, wrote in a letter to the News & Observer in Raleigh.

The bill would eliminate five of the 20 noninstructional days scheduled for teachers, without reducing their salaries.

Those days, opponents of the measure argue, are critical opportunities for teachers to attend professional workshops, meet with colleagues, or work on lesson plans.

"North Carolina’s instructional school year is already significantly shorter than others in the industrialized world," notes a position statement adopted in June by the state board of education.

Several education groups have vowed to work to reverse the measure if it is signed into law by the Democratic governor, who was still deliberating over the issue at press time late last week.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Vol. 23, Issue 44, Page 20

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