Bills to allow earlier start for N.C. public schools likely to die again in the Senate

Bills to allow earlier start for N.C. public schools likely to die again in the Senate

March 24th, 2023

Multiple bills have been approved for a second straight session by the N.C. House of Representatives that would amend or grant exemptions to the state’s public school calendar law and allow systems to start classes as early as August 10.

But past efforts to allow schools to open earlier in the summer have received a cool response in the Senate, and that appears to be the case again this session.

Currently, the state requires schools to open no earlier than the Monday nearest August 25 and end the school year by the Friday closest to June 11.

The current law passed in 2004 was backed by the state’s tourism industry along the coast and in the mountains to address staffing issues that arise when students depart while business is still in peak season, and limits the ability of families from around the state from being able to vacation in August.

Members of northeastern North Carolina’s delegation have said they support giving local districts more say in setting the calendars.

Several districts have proposed calendars for 2023-24 that ignore the law, including Wake County which is looking at starting classes on August 6 this year. reported that in an email, staff for Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said he had the following to say about calendar flexibility bills during a press gaggle in February:

“I don’t see where there’s a need to change the calendar law, except maybe to beef up the enforcement mechanisms for local systems that ignore the law,” Berger said. “I don’t know that there’s a particular bill that would do that but from my perspective that’s probably the only change that would need to be made.”

House Bill 86, which would cover all school districts, and multiple bills addressing individual districts including Hyde County, were approved earlier this month by near-unanimous votes.

Those bills have since been assigned to the Senate Rules Committee, where most legislation ends up that will likely be ignored in that chamber.

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