Other Voices: School systems need calendar flexibility

Published 8:02 pm Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Some issues simply defy solutions. No matter what the answer, someone’s going to be upset. So it is with the setting of public school calendars, an issue that has been debated in North Carolina for about as long as we’ve had public schools.

The issue will be back before the General Assembly when it reconvenes next month. Current state law bars schools from opening before late August. In most counties, the schools would like to open earlier, so fall semester testing can be wrapped up before the Christmas break.

But this conflicts with family vacation plans, and in tourist-dependent areas, it causes an uproar among the many business owners who depend on school-age employees for the summer vacation peaks.

This year, the battle will center on the increasing prevalence of high school students who also take courses at local community colleges. In Cumberland County, some high school classes are located at Fayetteville Technical Community College, where students take both high school and college courses. Community colleges open earlier than high schools, and the scheduling conflicts are a problem for administrators.

(In Rowan County, classes start in early August for Rowan Early College so its students will be on the same schedule as Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.)

So once again, there will be pressure to adjust the calendar.

Maybe it’s time to give individual communities more flexibility, even within a school system. As long as every student gets the required minimum hours of instruction, the calendar needn’t be king. Computer systems certainly can create individual schedules and track attendance. Maybe a little creativity will finally settle it.

— Fayetteville Observer