North Carolina students got an extra week or so of summer vacation before returning to class Aug. 25, thanks to a new law designed to stem the trend of earlier school openings.
But educators and students may not be so happy come January, because first-semester classes are expected to end after the holiday break with students prepared to take final exams.
The legislature ratified the changes to the school calendar in August 2004 after heavy lobbying from parents and representatives of real estate and tourism groups, who complained that the start of the school year had slowly crept into summer vacation in an increasing number of school systems. (“State Journal: Summertime Blues,” Aug. 11, 2004)
The law, however, also stipulates that all schools must close for the summer by June 10—a change that will cause many districts to squeeze more instructional time into a shorter calendar.
To get that additional time, teacher workdays will be cut from 20 to 15, and spring break might be whittled down, too.
Several districts in the state’s mountain regions gained waivers of the rule to allow enough leeway in the schedule to help them make up the inevitable snow days they will face.
Overall, high schools may feel the greatest impact, according to Jim Causby, the executive director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators, which opposed the restricted schedule.
Many secondary schools throughout the state have block scheduling and finish their courses in a single semester. With that semester ending just as colleges and universities restart their classes, students in high school dual-enrollment programs may find that the schedules overlap.
Moreover, said Leanne E. Winner, the legislative director for the North Carolina School Boards Association, school officials worry that a longer summer will mean students retain less of what they learned the previous year.
She added that districts must front teachers a full month’s pay in August, even if they work only a single week.
While that requirement may hurt cash-strapped districts, teachers may feel as if they’ve come up a little short in June, when their paychecks will be withheld to make up the difference.
“I expect after the first year, a lot of people will be fussing,” Mr. Causby said.