Parents, teachers should push for later start to school

By DAMON THAYER

State Senator

As we turn the page on July 2017, I find myself asking the same question once again: “Is summer over already?”

To the disappointment of most Kentucky students, and many parents, the answer is an overwhelming “yes.”

Because of a new law passed in 2017 (which I sponsored), districts will have a new incentive to begin classes even later than Aug. 23 beginning in the 2018-19 school year. This new law, Senate Bill 50, states that a district that starts school no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 will not be required to have the minimum 170 instructional days but still have 1,062 minimum hours.

Some districts have suggested that under this new law, they might have full days of classes Monday through Thursday with a half-day on Friday, which will be completely acceptable should a district opt to start at the later date provided. One of the benefits of this law is that it will preserve summer for students and parents and allow families to spend more time together enjoying the summer weather. This law also preserves total local control of school calendars.

Starting the school year in early August negatively affects Kentucky’s tourism industry. In 2016, the Kentucky Travel Industry Association conducted a study that illustrates the detrimental impact of early school start dates on our state’s economy. The study found that August school days:

• cost the Kentucky economy over $432 million in economic revenue and activity;

• cost Kentucky close to 6,000 jobs, and the reduction in workforce in August results in $97 million in lost wages; and

• cost Kentucky over $45 million in state and local tax revenue.

Early school start dates also limit the attendance of children at the Kentucky State Fair, held in Louisville every year in late August. This year’s fair dates are August 17-27. There are so many fun activities to plan, contests to enter, exhibits to see and shows to enjoy at the Kentucky State Fair. Why not give kids and their families the opportunity to attend at any and all times throughout the 10-day event?

Additionally, delaying the start of classes will improve energy efficiency at schools and improve the safety and quality of life for our students. Utility costs, currently driven by the overtaxing of equipment that cool the large facilities in summer, would decrease. School bus rides on hot August days are likely to be less comfortable for students, as well.

Under this law, the local board of education will every year appoint a school district calendar committee that includes teachers, a principal, district staff, parents and members of the business community. The committee will make school calendar recommendations to the superintendent and the school board that take into consideration the economic impact of the school calendar on the community and on Kentucky.

I urge all parents, teachers, and school board members to keep this new law in mind in early August. Longer summers will benefit everyone. Make this new option of extending our summers a priority in 2018. If you feel strongly about this issue, I encourage you to contact your local school board members and superintendents.