State: Local school districts not following calendar law with early start dates

  

Pictured above: Statesville High School – WSIC file photo

STATESVILLE, N.C. (WSIC NEWS) – The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) says Iredell-Statesville Schools, Mooresville Graded Schools, and eleven other districts are not following state law with their early start dates.

According to NCDPI, school districts may “start no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26.” Exceptions are provided for charter schools, weather situations, and year-round schools. Iredell-Statesville Schools believes what it’s calling an “innovative year-round calendar” allows it to have an earlier start date. The district started classes August 8.

“We have implemented what we believe to be our version of a year-round calendar,” says district spokeswoman Boen Nutting. “That includes all kinds of optional summer session programs.”

But, NCDPI says the summer programs planned by Iredell-Statesville Schools don’t qualify the district to say it has a year-round calendar. NCDPI spokesperson Todd Silberman tells WSIC in an email only days required for student attendance can be counted in determining whether or not a school system has a year-round calendar. Iredell-Statesville Schools summer programs are not required for all students.

The North Carolina State Board of Education will vote Wednesday morning on a report to state lawmakers showing what school districts are not following the calendar law.  It’s unclear what, if any, penalty these districts will face.

Mooresville-Graded Schools started classes August 6 and is defending its decision by saying it has a year-round calendar. Like Iredell-Statesville Schools, however, the summer programs are not required for all students.

Mooresville-Graded spokeswoman Tanae McLean says she personally contacted NCDPI at least three times asking for a definition of the year-round calendar and could not get a clear answer. The district surveyed parents, staff, and students about an earlier start date and received 72 percent support for the change.

NCDPI says the following districts are not in compliance with state calendar law:

Anson County Schools
Ashe County Schools
Avery County Schools
Kannapolis City Schools
Columbus County Schools
Whiteville City Schools
Iredell Statesville Schools
Mooresville Graded School District
Lincoln County Schools
Surry County Schools
Elkin City Schools
Mount Airy City Schools
Yadkin County Schools

Why an earlier start date?

Iredell-Statesville Schools spokeswoman Boen Nutting says the Board of Education started talking about calendar flexibility more than a year ago. Families, students, and staff were surveyed about their preferences for the school calendar. Nutting says the feedback received overwhelmingly supported an earlier start to the school year.

“Our community is very pleased with having started school when we started,” says Nutting.

One of the biggest draws for an earlier start date is high school students can finish college level courses and take their exams before leaving for Christmas break. Without an earlier start, these students are forced to finish their classes after vacation.

“If you’re a junior in high school and you’re taking chemistry, you go home for the winter holiday and then you come back and take your final exam after you’ve had that break.”

The earlier start date also aligns early college high schools with community college schedules.

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