To the Editor:
Concerning your Aug. 9, 2006, In Perspective article “Help for the Summer,” on the controversy surrounding school starting dates:
The most pedagogically sound reason for starting classes in August is that it gives schools the ability to wrap up first-semester exams prior to the nearly three-week-long hiatus at winter break. Higher education figured this out long ago.
In my district, in Marion County, Fla., our Aug. 7 starting date this year also affords us the opportunity to schedule storm makeup days in December. Such planning is necessary—in 2004, Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne visited us on Sept. 6 and 26, respectively.
The Florida legislature has a penchant for micromanagement, believing that one size fits all. Unfortunately, the “mouse house” to our south seems to be cutting the cloth for this garment. Our kids in Marion County are more likely to be working on horse farms or in the construction industry during their time off, not catering to tourists.
If approximately 74 percent of school districts nationwide had August start dates last year, as your article relates, perhaps the other 26 percent should wake up and smell the coffee. Florida’s beaches and amusement parks are just fine in June.
R. Craig Ham
A version of this article appeared in the August 30, 2006 edition of Education Week as School Starting Dates: ‘One Size Doesn’t Fit All’