As a parent in a metro district that returns to school Aug. 1 under a “balanced calendar,” I read this Sunday AJC essay by Roswell parent Vicki Griffin with a personal interest.
While Griffin wrote the column to address the issue of lobbyist fees, she mentions her son’s experience in protesting his school district’s dwindling summer breaks.
That is a growing issue as more systems move to modified year-round or balanced calendars in which students have shorter summers and more breaks throughout the school year. Some states have essentially blocked short summers by legislating that school cannot start earlier than late August.
In fact, North Carolina passed a law that specifies school start dates: Start date no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 and end date no later than the Friday closest to June 11 (unless a weather related calendar waiver has been approved, year-round school, charter school or cooperative innovative high school.) If waiver is approved the start date can be no earlier than the Monday closest to August 19.
I wanted to share the piece because we’ve talked more on the blog about the impact of these schedules and shorter summers on working parents rather than on working students.
I recently had a conversation with a teen in my community who lost an opportunity to work as a camp counselor in North Carolina this summer because she couldn’t stay on through the third week of August. She had to be back home to start school Aug. 1.
Do shorter summers cut short chances for good summer jobs?
Take a look at this excerpt from Griffin’s column:
Before my eldest son was old enough to drive, he spent his first summer working as a lifeguard at a Roswell neighborhood pool. He appreciated that because it was a summer job, he could work as many hours as offered without it interfering with his classes or grades at Lassiter High School. He was adamant that he was going to save as much of what he earned as possible, so he’d have it for college. He knew that as a single working mom, I would be unable to help him as much as I would have liked. And every summer throughout high school he did just that, salting away his earnings with nothing spent on anything frivolous.
He supplemented what he made with swimming lessons and pool party duties whenever opportunities arose. He worked as soon as the neighborhood pools opened for the season, but his summer work was cut shorter every year due to the ever earlier school start dates in Cobb County.
He saw his younger brother, a competition-level swimmer who regularly made the county’s state swim team, unable to attend scholarship camps or visit with family because for him, summer was over and school began right after the state swim meets. He also realized he was losing thousands of dollars that would be needed for college and couldn’t understand why the school board, at that time, was more interested in shrinking his summer break than they were with responding positively to their constituents’ concerns.
Under pressure from parents who felt powerless, state representatives stepped in with proposed legislation that would have limited how early the school year could begin in Georgia. Committees were formed and hearings were held under the Gold Dome. My son felt so strongly about this issue that he spoke before the education subcommittee considering the bill.
The bill wasn’t passed, citing forfeiture of local control, but it was a valuable lesson in civics for my sons.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog