07/23/04 — Schools get new function: Tourism needs pupils’ help

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Schools get new function: Tourism needs pupils’ help

This paper’s Don McLoud had it right in a column sometime back when there was mention of a state law to change local school calendars. Why are our children wasting their time in school, McLoud asked, when they could be out doing something for the tourism industry?

The tourism industry was one of the vocal proponents of the law that took local school calendars out of the hands of county school boards and sent them to Raleigh.

Granted, the tourism industry is important. And no doubt it was smarting from changes in school calendars, which now have children in schools almost throughout the summer — or so it seems, especially to the children.

Many school districts open schools in early August — Wayne County included — and some even start the year in late July.

They do this for academic reasons. It allows them to get in a full semester of teaching, followed by end-of-semester exams, before the Christmas break. That way, the children don’t have a two-week hiatus between their courses and their tests, which even a boardwalk merchant would admit is a bad thing.

The General Assembly, in the hours before it adjourned this year’s session last weekend, approved a bill that forces school systems to start their year no sooner than Aug. 25 and end it by June 10. The lawmakers eliminated five of the 20 teacher work days, and the rest of the time eliminated comes from classroom teaching.

This will make vacation planning easier for families as well as helping those who earn their livings at vacation spots. Heretofore, however, these had not been regarded as high-priority functions of the schools.

Whether children need to spend more or less of the hot-weather time in school, which is debatable, the new law is unfortunate because it encroaches on the authority of local school officials. They know more than the General Assembly does about what is right for their own pupils.

This year, the tourism industry won, and the children lost.

Published in Editorials on July 23, 2004 12:49 PM