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School Calendar bill opposed

The Lincoln County Board of Education voted in April to oppose state legislature mandating a later start date for the school calendar, but this past week the state House has passed a bill setting mandatory calendars for the schools.
The measure would require local school districts to begin the school calendar no earlier than Aug. 25 and end no later than June 10.
The board’s opposition was part of a statewide campaign started by the North Carolina School Board Association.
“That shows you how much they listen to people that are in education,” said Jean Dellinger, chairman of the board. “I am very disappointed.”
Several board members were also disappointed with Rep. Joe Kiser, R-Vale, who told the board last April that he would oppose the legislation.
“I’m a little confused,” said Tommy Houser, a board member. “He tells us one thing and does another.”
The bill passed with a 61 to 40 vote. The Senate has yet to vote on the issue.
“We still have an option to voice our opinion with the Senate,” Superintendent Jim Watson told the board at their monthly meeting.
Proponents of the bill hope to preserve summer months for outside the classroom childhood and family learning experiences.
People involved in the tourist industry also support making summer vacation longer.
If summers are lengthened, the number of teacher workdays in a year would be reduced by 10. Teachers, however, would be paid the same amount despite working 10 less days.
Of the remaining 10 workdays, five would be scheduled by the state government and would fall at the start and end of the year as well as at the end of grading periods.
The remaining five days would be scheduled by school principals with input from school improvement teams.
Board members worry that cutting out 10 teacher workdays a year would hinder parent conferences and professional development.
“This should be a local decision,” Watson told the board. “The citizens of Lincoln County have elected you to make this type of decision.”
If the bill passes in the Senate, the shorter school calendar would take effect starting with the 2005 to 2006 school year.
Students would still be required to attend school 180 days each year. If school is canceled due to inclement weather, students will have to make up that time.
In the past, teacher workdays have been used as makeup days.
Watson believes that if the number of teacher workdays are shortened each year, students will have to attend school during traditional vacations such as spring break.
“If these work days are taken away we won’t have this flexibility,” said Watson. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too, so to speak.”by Sarah Grano

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