New bill could mean longer summer

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 18, 2004

If a bill currently under review by the State Education Committee becomes law, all public school systems across Alabama will have to give students a longer summer vacation fall semester.

The Mandatory School Start Date bill, sponsored by Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, is designed to create a statewide school start period for public elementary and secondary schools.

This bill gives a specific time from Aug. 18 to Aug. 21 as the earliest date academic instruction can begin in public schools.

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The bill states the mandatory start time will &uot;afford students attending schools identified for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring pursuant to federal guidelines with an opportunity to transfer to another school or to take advantage of other supplementary services, and to allow adequate time to comply with the reporting provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.&uot;

If the bill is approved by the education committee and eventually becomes law, the uniform school calender would be set in place as early as the start of the 2004-05 school year.

Both the Selma City School System and Dallas County School System have already planned their academic calender for next year.

City schools would have to postpone the first day of school by two extra days. County schools would have to wait a week before beginning their fall semester.

The state’s tourism industry, and those with interest in summer camps, is pushing for the Mandatory School Start Date bill in an effort to increase summer vacation profits.

Cecil Williamson, chairman of tion profits.

Cecil Williamson, chairman of the Dallas County School Board, said he does not support having a mandatory start date.

The Alabama Association of School Boards also strongly opposes the mandatory calendar.

State superintendents testified to the Education Committee on April 7 against taking away local control of when schools should begin their semesters.

According to the AASB, many school systems develop calendars suited to their community’s needs and special events.

Nancy Bennett, president of the Selma City School Board, said she belives legislators are trying to mandate something they have no control over.

However, the Mandatory School Start Date bill seems to have the support of the Alabama State School Board.

Ella Bell, district 5 representative for the state board, said the bill has been brought up during meetings and is being supported by the Interim State Superintendent Dr. Joseph Morton.

The Education Committee was supposed to vote on the Mandatory School Start Date bill this week, but the meeting has been postponed until a later date.

If it is eventually passed by the committee members, which includes Sen. Hank Sanders, the bill will be introduced to the floor of the Senate.