Sununu creates panel to study later school start date

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Many New Hampshire students are returning to school this week, but Republican Gov. Chris Sununu hopes they'll savor summer for a bit longer next year.

Sununu on Tuesday created a commission to study whether schools should be required to start after Labor Day, a step some other states already have taken. Doing so would reverse a trend in New Hampshire, where the percentage of schools starting after Labor Day has dropped 50 percent in the last decade, and the majority of districts now open before that traditional start date.

Sununu and other proponents of later start dates argue that such changes increase both summer tourism revenue and the opportunity for families to take August vacations. They also it argue could mean more internship and job opportunities for high school students.

Similar "Save our Summers" campaigns have popped up around the country. North Carolina has mandated the beginning and end of summer vacation for public schools for more than a dozen years as a way to both support tourism at the state's beaches and mountain getaways and appease parents unhappy with increasingly earlier first days of school. There, schools can start no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11, though there are exceptions.

Wisconsin law has prohibited starting school before Sept. 1 since 2000, and Maryland's governor issued an executive order in 2016 requiring schools to complete their required 180 days between Labor Day and June 15 under most circumstances. Other states, however, have gone in the opposite direction.

When Florida districts responded to an increased reliance on standardized testing by moving up the start of school into early August, resistance from parents and theme parks led to a 2006 law requiring that school start no earlier than two weeks prior to Labor Day. But a bill passed in 2015 now allows districts to start as early as Aug. 10. South Carolina's Legislature in 2006 mandated that schools start no earlier than the third Monday in August, but there have been recent unsuccessful efforts to make the start date earlier, not later.

The New Hampshire study commission has until Nov. 30 to examine the impact of a post-Labor Day start in nearly a dozen areas, including tourism, academic performance, school athletic programs and tax revenue.


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